"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
Potential hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and refining of gas drawn from the Kinsale and Corrib gas fields will be monitored by the State’s energy regulator before the end of next year.
Fines of up to €3 million or imprisonment for up to three years may be imposed for breaches, according to the Commission for Energy Regulation in a document published yesterday.
It promises “extensive” monitoring and enforcement of the new safety system, which will apply to both onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction, including shale gas “fracking”, if licensed here.
The controversial “fracking” technique is currently the subject of a second study by the Environmental Protection Agency, which will inform the approach to be taken by Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte.
Penalties for breaches of the commission’s new safety system will include an immediate suspension of activities on foot of an emergency direction order or a court application.
Production could be halted altogether if developers lose their safety permit.