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Key facts & Statistics –June 2005

Current Summary of Corrib Issues –June 2005

The Corrib Gas Field is being developed by three multinational companies, headed by Shell. They intend to refine the gas in a formerly Coillte-owned 165 hectare forest which is 9 km inland. Shell intend to run the Upstream (offshore) pipeline through this 9 km stretch of land alongside (and under) the public road and in close proximity to houses. Shell maintains that there is nothing exceptional about this pipeline and that there are gas pipelines operating safely in cities and towns in Ireland.

High pressure Bord Gais transmission pipelines in Ireland must adhere to ‘sales gas’ standards i.e. cleaned, odorised gas with pressure less than 80 bar and a mandatory separation distance of 70 metres from dwellings to conform with the NSAI code of practice. Maximum pressure in cities/towns is 4 bar.

The Corrib Gas Upstream pipeline is very different:

    • It is of an astounding 345 bar pressure, (i.e. c. 5,000 psi, a car tyre is 2 psi)
    • It will come ashore at Dooncarton where there were over 40 separate landslides
    • It will be ‘raw’ corrosive gas subject to massive slug build-ups over its 92 km length
    • It will have several high-risk 90 degree angles over its 9 km on shore length
    • It will be unodorised, so leaks cannot be detected
    • It will run alongside the public road for much of its length
    • It will not be possible to maintain even a 70m separation from houses and stay safely clear of the loose clay cliff face along the shore of the beautiful Sruth Fada Conn Estuary SAC.

In the same trench, to operate the wells remotely there will be:-

    • An electric power supply!!!
    • An hydraulic fluid supply of 210 bar
    • High pressure hydraulic fluid supply of 610 bar
    • Methanol injection supply

This amounts to some cocktail through notoriously unstable ground. Should there be a rupture of this high-risk pipeline, the consequences for man and the environment would be unquantifiable and, unbelievably, our Government is carrying the responsibility for this unprecedented high-risk, high-pressure Shell pipeline. Why?

There is no international standard or code of practice to cover this. The NSAI Code of Practice covers only cleaned gas in pipelines up to 100 bar pressure. If one extends their separation distance graph out to cover the pressure in Shell’s pipeline, one would come up with a mandatory distance of 260 metres (for cleaned, odorised gas).

The Deal
Corrib Gas, worth at a conservative estimate, six billion euro, was given away by the Government without any retention of state interest. The private multi-national oil companies will pay no royalties and with tax write-offs going back 25 years, they will pay no tax to this State. Any gas sold to the Government will be bought at commercial rates.
The refinery will be situated in a formerly Coillte-owned site of 156 hectares. The land was never offered for sale on the open market.

Mayo-Galway Pipeline
In order to bring the gas to market, Bord Gais will build a 150 km pipeline from the refinery site to the National Gas Grid at Craughwell in Galway. Bord Gais has refused to disclose the cost of this pipeline. Only 27% of the Corrib Gas reserve will to be sold to Bord Gais. The remaining 63% will be sold to private customers in competition with Bord Gais but through Bord Gais pipelines. Why is Bord Gais willing to risk their safe record of 30 years by connecting up to this dangerous refinery in a forested area and transport gas to market for Shell?

Peat Trafficing
In order to build the refinery, 450,000 tons of peat has to be removed from the refinery site. Bord na Mona has undertaken to do this and deposit the peat 13 km away on their lands. Mayo Co.Co. ‘upgraded’ a bog road through special areas of conservation to enable 800 HGV’s per day for min. 6 months to transport the peat. In the first week of operation, three trucks carrying this saturated peat went off the road. Work has been suspended to strengthen the supposedly well-prepared road.

The proposed refinery site is surrounded by a cluster of SAC’s/SPA’s. The National Parks and Wildlife Service which is entrusted with the protection of such sites has failed miserably in its duty under EU law. Emissions of 13 million cu. mts. per day at an average temperature of 500 degrees centigrade will risr from this refinery and will be brought down on these protected sites through the heavy rainfall in the area. There will be 238,080 kg. of pure gas released into the atmosphere each year. This, together with the temperature of the emissions will result in formaldehyde and will rain down on villages and protected areas downwind of this refinery. There will be a 24 hr. 365 day/year risk of vapour cloud explosions through the ignition of a gas cloud drifting downwind.

Protected Areas
Two salmonid rivers are in the catchment of this site. The site drains through one of those rivers into Carrowmore Lake SAC (drinking water for 10,000 people). The ABP Inspector warned that through siltation, the lake could turn into a giant settlement pond from which it might never recover. Also, remaining peat in the refinery site is to be ‘stabilized’ by mixing in 36,000 tons of dry cement, with permission to repeat the procedure if the desired result is not achieved – pollutants, including carcinogens, will end up in Carrowmore Lake through runoff. Since the arrival of Shell at this site, the Ballinaboy River, which was Class A (i.e. pristine) for the previous 10 years, is now highly polluted. Angling has been suspended for the last two seasons on Carrowmore Lake SAC, a very important fishing resource for the area as it is now classed as ‘highly euthropic’.

The National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health is the Competent Authority for sites falling under the Seveso Directive. The refinery site comes under this Directive because of the massive amounts of highly dangerous substances to be stored on site. The H.S.A. failed to take into account several scenarios under this Directive as required under EU law. They stated in their report that the worst possible consequences would be caused by a full-bore rupture at the high-pressure import gas pipeline and that the fatal effects from a jet fire could extend to 527 mts. Despite this, residents are expected to live and work within 70 mts. of this pipeline! Do we need another ‘Whiddy Island’?

Propane Gas
There will be a requirement for massive amounts of propane gas to be stored on site for a future gigantic refrigeration plant required as field pressure drops. Propane gas is extremely flammable with a flashpoint of 1 degree. It is a violation of the Seveso Directive not to include this in the inventory.

Waste Oil Condensate
Condensate will be recovered from the gas during the refining process. 1,089 tonnes of condensate will be stored on site and 3,604 tonnes will be incinerated annually for fuel use against all best international practice. There is an abundance of natural gas available for fuel. By unnecessarily storing condensate on site, and by emitting pollutants onto designated sites, EU law is being violated twice.

The hydrate inhibitor, Methanol is to be used. Methanol is highly flammable with a flashpoint of 10 degrees. It is extremely toxic and in incidence of small contamination causes blindness. Glycol is the industry preferred alternative and is much safer but is more expensive to use. A Massive 3,629 tonnes of methanol will be stored on site in 5 tanks each 35ft. high and 30ft. diameter with an annual loss to the environment of 1,825 tonnes. The H.S.A. has stated in their report that 'Uncontrolled release of each of these materials (condensate and methanol) into the environment, at sufficiently high volumes, is likely to result in a major accident to the environment'.

Emergency Services
One wonders what would happen should HGV’s carrying propane gas or methanol go off the road as happened three trucks in one week carrying peat? The emergency services are 80 km away. The transportation of dangerous substances by road does not come under the remit of the H.S.A. nor does the Upstream pipeline save for the 5m stretch within the refinery site thus protecting Shell personnel. No Authority or Agency is responsible for the health and safety of the public from the remaining 9 km of this pipeline. When the ABP Inspector requested that the Board seek advice from the H.S.A. on the matter, the Board, incredibly, by specific direction, refused to grant his request. The Board then granted permission for the refinery and passed the ‘poisoned chalice’ on to the EPA whose remit covers only emissions.

High Court Hearings
People living along the route of this pipeline are greatly concerned about their safety and health. They requested to see the risk assessment upon which the Minister based his ‘consent’ for this project, before admitting Shell personnel onto their lands. This was refused. They were hauled by Shell before the President of the High Court for an injunction. At each of the four different sittings of the High Court, they requested to see the ‘consent’ and risk assessment. The President of the High Court granted Shell the injunction without allowing them the right to view the documents. They were subsequently denied a copy of the judgement. Is this justice?

[The risk assessment on the refinery should have been carried out at the request of the H.S.A. It was commissioned by Shell - as was the risk assessment on the notorious Upstream pipeline.]

Potential Disaster
Should there be a rupture of this pipeline, the electric power supply will be severed. There is then total reliance on an automatic shut-down facility. If this fails, (and 30% of pipeline failures are due to faulty equipment), the operator will have lost control of the wells. It is a frightening scenario. Is there is a resolution to protect the environment in this sensitive location; to safeguard the health and safety of the public and to relieve all our ‘protective agencies’ from the shameful abdication of their responsibilities under EU law? Yes, – clean the gas offshore and bring it on land – safely.

Posted Date: 
8 June 2005 - 5:35pm