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Corrib gas tunnel will be longest in Europe

Áine Ryan - Mayo News

A tunnel carrying high-pressure Corrib gas, across a bay in north Mayo, will be the longest of its kind in Europe, it has emerged.
A Shell E&P Ireland (SEPIL) consultant confirmed at yesterday’s (Tuesday) Bord Pleanála hearing into the controversial project that at 4.9km long, the tunnel under Sruwaddacon Bay is almost a kilometre longer than a gas pipeline tunnel in Holland, and longer than the Dublin Port Tunnel.
At yesterday’s session a  team of Shell consultants were questioned by Nigel Wright, a consultant and former British Gas Engineer, retained by the planning appeals board.  The Shell team, included Gerry Costello, SEPIL, and experts from Det Norsche Veritas (DNV), JP Kenny, Exodus, Agec, De La Motte, and Shell International.
Mr Wright addressed a broad range of safety and stability matters relating to the revised application for the pipeline, which involves tunneling under the bay, which is a Special Area of Conservation.
“A 4km tunnel in the Netherlands is about the longest I am aware of in Europe,” a member of the expert team said.
Nigel Wright observed there was very little information in the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) about the route of the pipeline through Sruwaddacon Bay and asked why there wasn’t more specific information about ‘stress analysis’.
Responding, a member of the Shell expert team said ‘the stress analysis was an ongoing process’.  
Mr Wright observed that ‘here we have the longest [gas pipeline] tunnel in Europe’ and it is still going through ‘the design process’.
Shell is currently carrying out a major bore-holing operation in Sruwaddacon Bay, expected to last until October.
Responding, Esmonde Keane, Senior Counsel, said Shell had no difficulty providing initial stress tests, adding that the protracted assessment was because ‘a very high standard’ was being applied.  
During further questioning, Nigel Wright asked how the company was now able to reduce the pressure of the raw gas in the pipeline since they claimed at the 2009 oral hearing they could not.
Mr Gerry Costello, Deputy Project Director, said the company had researched the possibility of reducing the pressure in response to comments made by the board about hazard distance from houses, and to reflect issues that arose during the 2009 hearing.
“So we studied how we could reduce the pressure in line with other gas pipelines in Ireland,” said Mr Costello. He cited an example of a gas pipeline in Dublin that has an operating pressure of 150 bar.
Meanwhile, local Parish Priest, Fr Michael Nallen told Inspector Martin Nolan that the hearing should be suspended, if necessary, so the applicant could submit an Emergency Response Plan.
Moreover, Esmonde Keane, advised the hearing that he may seek legal instructions about the admissibility of DVDs submitted by local Shell to Sea observer, Terence Conway. He said some of the allegations made in these films were ‘scurrilous’ and could be prejudicial. The hearing continues today.