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Landslide adds to Corrib gas project woes

From the archives - 28th Sept. 2003
The Sunday Times
Des Crowley and Douglas Dalby
 
THE €2 billion Corrib gas project is set to be delayed further after a massive landslide caused millions of euros worth of damage to the Pullathomas area in Co Mayo where a proposed refinery is to be situated.
Enterprise Energy Ireland (EEI), the main partner in the project, said last week that plans to route a gas pipeline under the mountain where the landslide occurred had already been shelved earlier this year after local objections.
The proximity of the landslide is certain to give more ammunition to local protesters who forced the re-routing of the pipe some time ago after forecasting a possible slide. Geologists are still conducting tests on the area and about 40 homes have been evacuated.
"There are no immediate plans to move the pipeline further away but we have been in contact with the relevant agencies since the unfortunate events and they are keeping us up to date with developments," EEI said.
"Given the history of landslides in the area, which we addressed in our offshore environmental impact statement, we took the decision to move the pipeline 500m away from the base of that mountain.

"The pipeline now runs 1,000m before turning left to land at Rossport on the other side of the bay, where it will continue eastwards before completing a second bay crossing and running south towards the proposed terminal at Bellanaboy Bridge.
"The Department of Communications Marine and Natural Resources has granted all the necessary offshore approvals for this route and should the Corrib project proceed, this pipeline route will not change."
Gas was supposed to begin coming ashore at Glengad, near Belmullet, next year and the Corrib field was expected to supply up to 60% of Ireland's requirements.
The pipeline has been incorporated into the National Spatial Strategy but it has been mired in controversy and is several years behind schedule.
Earlier this year the authorities threw out the application by EEI, which Royal Dutch Shell acquired in 2002 for £3.5 billion (€5.1 billion), to bring the gas ashore for processing but the company has reserved its right to bring a new application.
"The status of the oil project is not that it has been entirely abandoned " it is still under review by Shell and its fellow shareholders, Statoil and Marathon," said EEI.
For environmental reasons local groups would prefer gas and residual oil to be processed at sea, but the company has argued that a land-based refinery at Bellanaboy, five miles from the Glengad landfall, would meet all planning and ecological requirements. A sea-based refinery would increase costs by about €360m.
Since the landslide last Friday week, locals have been suggesting the company may be forced to relocate the pipeline elsewhere; either Killybegs in Co Donegal or to Killala, further north on the Mayo coast.
A switch to Killala would cost the company millions of euros and is likely to set the process back by many years.
By July 2001 the partners had already spent €220m in exploration and planning for the development of the discovery. Given the delays, the projected total cost of €860m for the project is already likely to be exceeded.
 

Posted Date: 
28 September 2003 - 11:58pm