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‘Twenty or more Corribs’ out there, says Shell boss

Keith Bourke - Western People

A SENIOR official from Shell Ireland told the second-in-command of a US delegation to Ireland that his company thought there may be "20 or more” offshore gas fields of the size of the Corrib gas development off the west coast of Ireland, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.
The document – obtained by WikiLeaks and published by The Guardian newspaper in London – quotes Julian Cetti, head of commercial and business strategy in Shell E&P Ireland, as saying there “could be 20 or more Corribs out there – or very little – depending on how the exploratory drilling progresses this year”.
His comments confirm a long-held suspicion by many observers of Corrib that there are vast oil and gas resources in the Atlantic Ocean. Under the current arrangement negotiated by corrupt former minister Ray Burke the Irish public would gain no financial benefit from any of the 20 fields that may exist in Irish waters.
Mr Cetti hinted that Shell does not have a “Plan B” if it fails to get approval for the Corrib terminal, according to the leaked cable. He added that Corrib and the planned Shannon LNG re-gas plant (owned by US oil firm Hess) together would be sufficient to meet Ireland’s domestic gas demand for many years.
Shell is the main stakeholder in the controversial Corrib gas project, holding a 45 per cent stake in the venture.
The admission of Shell’s belief that gas worth so much could remain untapped in Irish waters underlines the stakes of the Corrib gas dispute.
Last month, Statoil – another main player with a 36.5 per cent stake in the project – wrote down the value of its own stake in the project by almost €200m, citing delays in extracting the gas from the field. However, the price of gas has soared in the ten years since the planning application for the Corrib terminal was originally lodged.
Meanwhile, An Bord Pleanála has deferred its decision on the penultimate stage of the Corrib gas project until later this year.
The board’s decision on a third pipeline route, submitted by Shell under the Strategic Infrastructure Act, was expected before the end of December. The application, which would involve tunnelling under Sruwaddaccon estuary, a special area of conservation, was the subject of an oral hearing that concluded on October 1 last.
Community group Pobal Chill Chomáin had written to the board earlier this month asking it to reopen the oral hearing, due to a disparity in new information submitted by Shell.
The information was submitted to the Department of the Environment as part of a foreshore licence for the new route.
The community group has not heard back from the board, but it is understood that it is unlikely the hearing would be reopened at this stage.
Shell E&P Ireland has said it has not heard from An Bord Pleanála.