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Shell will cut gas risk with 4.9km tunnel

ENERGY giant Shell E&P plans to build the longest tunnel in the country to bring gas from the Corrib gas field ashore.

The company yesterday sought planning permission from An Bord Pleanala to build a 4.9km tunnel underneath Sruwaddacon Bay in Co Mayo. The proposed tunnel will take at least a year to build, further delaying the project.

The move comes after the planning appeals board last year ordered the company to redesign the pipeline and move it away from homes because it posed an "unacceptable risk" to the public. It is the third time the pipeline's route has been changed.

The pipeline is needed to link the offshore gas field with the refinery at Bellanaboy, where the gas will be processed before being sold.

Industry sources said the tunnel would cost some €150m to build -- five times the cost of the rejected pipeline. At 4.9km, it is 400 metres longer than the Dublin Port Tunnel.

Assuming its plans are approved, Shell E&P will have spent more than €1bn bringing the gas ashore. The company said yesterday it had "responded positively" to the board's request to re-route the onshore pipeline through Sruwaddacon Bay.

A revised 5,000-page long environmental impact statement, which took almost six months to prepare, details how the pipeline will run from the landfall at Glengad to the Bellanaboy terminal.

By building the pipeline under Sruwaddacon Bay, the nearest occupied house is now 234 metres away from the pipeline, more than three times the original distance.


"We believe a tunnel under Sruwaddacon Bay will have the least environmental impact on the bay," managing director Terry Nolan said.

Last night Mary Corduff, whose husband Willie was one of five men jailed for 94 days in 2005 for his opposition to the project, said the board would be tasked with ensuring local people were kept safe.

"The nearest thing to my mind at the moment is the disaster in the Gulf (of Mexico)," she said.

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This field is required

"The engineers said it was foolproof and couldn't fail. How far away from a house is safe? We have always said this is a health and safety issue."

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