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What are the benefits? – June ‘05

Corrib Gas: One Property Owner’s View – June ‘05

Our immediate concern arises from the c. 45,000 tonnes of emissions into the air which will be borne by the prevailing winds directly over the village where our property lies 2km distant. Alarmingly, this cluster of 9 residences is not shown on Shell’s version of the ordinance survey-based map accompanying the Planning Application despite repeated efforts on our part over several years to have this omission rectified by the Applicant. Effectively it has been air-brushed from the record.

False Promises
It would be horribly ironic if Corrib gas were to be piped through Erris to fuel prosperity at the far ends of Ireland leaving little benefit in Erris once the short-term (and potentially disruptive) construction phase is finished. Yet, to date, that is the only certain prospect on offer to Erris. None of the parties involved, neither Shell, Bord Gais nor the Government deny this, though each is willing to intimate that others will deliver the vaguely-promised, longer-term prosperity. The truth is that Shell’s interest and commitment ends totally once the gas has been cleaned and re-pressurised for delivery at Bellanaboy.

Stark Reality
No supply is possible except through a Bord Gais supply network. No supply networks are planned along the proposed pipeline route from Bellanaboy which is designed as a trunk-line straight through to Craughwell, with no guaranteed spurs whatsoever. Additionally, Bord Gais is statutorily, and specifically, prohibited from developing inherently uneconomic supply networks and so, only larger centres of population with substantial industrial bases, would qualify for supply networks. That is why, in the west, Galway city alone is guaranteed to benefit - while Cork and Dublin will be the main beneficiaries - over the 15 year life of Corrib gas.

Root Problem
This need not be the case but it is the only one which the Applicant is willing to consider, largely because it is the cheapest, most convenient option for them. They have been reinforced in this option by Government policy which envisages infra-structural development following on from such an installation. There is every reason to believe that it is largely wishful thinking of the kind which wins votes at election time but fails the test of closer scrutiny.

Bantry Bay, for instance, did not benefit infra-structurally from the oil terminal based there 30 or so years ago but it did suffer the catastrophic dock-side explosion of the Betelguese oil tanker with the loss of 50 lives, followed by 15 years of clean-up and stagnation. Likewise, the Silvermines development at Tynagh brought little infra-structural development,but it has left a pollution problem which affects the whole locality and for which the development company is unwilling to take responsibility. The list goes on and on….

Long Term Planning
The central fact is that the planning stage is a once-off opportunity to get things right for all vested interests. The most certain benefit for Erris lies in servicing an off-shore platform, as at Kinsale, through the development of sea and heliport facilities from Blacksod and/or Broadhaven. This option was highlighted by An Bord Pleanala in its Section 10 referral. It would guarantee on-going commercial activity and local employment over the whole life of the gasfield by ensuring a flow-through of workers and supplies, as well as the spin-offs on sea and land which that would entail.

The Applicant has consistently refused to countenance this option on the basis of extra costs but has failed to provide figures to substantiate this position at any stage, despite having a legal responsibility to do so. An Bord Pleanala’s Section 10 referral noted specifically this responsibility to provide detailed assessment of alternatives. What is certain is that there is circa 1,000,000,000,000 cu.ft (one trillion) of gas in the field. This has an equivalency of 150,000,000 (150 million) barrels of oil which, in turn, has current market value of circa $4,500,000,000 ($4.5 billion). Since no royalties are to be paid, and no government share of ownership, nor any profits tax likely for very many years (all exploration, development and running expenses are deductible up-front), it is reasonable to expect that a solution with on-going benefit to the area is not only affordable but equitable - as was done in The Shetlands, Norway, East Timor etc, etc.

Bottom Line
It must be remembered in this regard that the $4.5 billion of gas actually belonged to the Irish nation (as does all mineral wealth) until it was signed over by our government on payment of circa £5,000 shortly before the Shell takeover of Enterprise. Also, cleaned gas processed off-shore is capable of being readily piped to the national grid without the problem of slug build-ups which otherwise impose many limitations. And the E150,000,000 (150 million Euro) which government-owned Bord Gais is committed to invest for the pipeline to Craughwell could be far better spent in developing off-shore servicing facilities in Erris.

In this light, it must again be emphasised that a facility in Erris servicing an off-shore shallow-water platform would give on-going employment and prosperity over the full life of the field whereas a terminal-refinery on-shore would merely allow the gas to pass through Erris to service the cities of Galway, Limerick, Cork and Dublin. Government Ministers and Bord Gais Managing Director have repeatedly acknowledged that there would be relatively little commercial benefit from Corrib gas north of Galway city and it is against this perspective that we wish our submission to be viewed.

Posted Date: 
8 June 2005 - 11:01pm