"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.”
Thursday, 21 February 2008
WORK IN PROGRESS?Work at the Corrib gas processing plant at Bellanaboy. The two worlds of the Corrib project Áine Ryan IF there was ever a poignant symbol of two worlds apart, there is no need to go further than the Corrib gas refinery site in Bellanaboy. These days, inside the gates, the beleaguered project is at its busiest to date, employing around 600 people, with the figure set to further increase in the coming weeks to 800. Meanwhile, outside the gates, the Shell to Sea protest continues each day; rain, hail or snow. Moreover, its likening to a classic David and Goliath struggle has been further enhanced in recent weeks with the apparent dwarfing of the signature camp headquarters – a sheep-trailer – now dramatically overshadowed by an array of colourful cranes, cluttering the north Mayo skyline. Last week, hundreds of workers basked in idyllic Mayo sunshine as the country’s biggest construction site was dug, hewed and built into a large compound of buildings, chimneys and tanks, which will process and administer Ireland’s most controversial offshore discovery. Over the last three months, 600 tonnes of steel have been hoisted and bolted into position; 1,439 piles have been driven into a site where over 350,000 tonnes of peat were removed last summer. At last Wednesday’s media presentation, Project Manager, Mr Gerry Campbell revealed that the project was recently awarded an in-company ‘best rating’ of any Shell project in Europe, in 2007. He said that key priorities were safety, environmental standards and the delivery of employment to Erris. He also observed that ‘it was hard to get a drink in a Belmullet pub at the moment’, and there was ‘a lot of money’ being spent in the local community at this point in the project. Referring to Shell’s recent application to Mayo County Council for planning amendments, Mr Campbell explained that these ‘minor modifications’ were part of the ‘extremely stringent conditions’ demanded by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Pollution Prevention Control Licence, granted during November last. He also said that bigger alterations to the original licence application will involve the reduction of Nox emissions from the refinery. “With the licence comes some extremely stringent environmental conditions, which we have had to take on board. Because the gas is very pure, probably the most complex part of the plant is the water treatment plant. We’ve been given very tight planning conditions as [nearby] Carrowmore lake is the local water source,” said Mr Campbell. He observed that Mayo County Council had charged Shell with ‘meeting the highest standards of water quality in discharges’ from the site. He also said: “We have made tremendous progress in trying to get the benefits of the project to Erris.” He cited a long list of local companies and businesses benefiting directly from the development. Questioned as to whether it was rather previous of Shell to build a refinery for a gas resource that still had no route, Mr Campbell said he was not concerned. “I’m quite comfortable that there’s no pipeline route [yet]. It’s a tremendous challenge to provide this gas,” he said. In reply to further questioning, he confirmed that, while Shell was exploring in the area, any new find could be subject to a completely different landfall or processing site. At the last Shell to Sea protest, at the Bellanaboy refinery main gate, The Mayo News was told that the imminent announcement of the new pipeline route was now the main focus. Mr Vincent McGrath said: “It will be the same as 2005 [when the Rossport Five were jailed after they refused to allow Shell onto their lands, even though a CPO had been granted]. Except now the community is stronger than ever in its opposition to this imposed pipeline,” observed McGrath.