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Further setback for controversial Corrib onshore gas pipeline

Toni Bourke - Mayo Advertiser

The Corrib Gas Partners have insisted that the proposed Corrib gas pipeline is safe and meets all international standards and industry best practice. Their comments were made this week following an announcement by An Bord Pleanála that it would defer its decision on the onshore pipeline. This is the third delay on the decision regarding this onshore section of the pipeline which was originally due on August 10.

However, the board added that “it would be appropriate to approve the proposed onshore pipeline development should alterations be made to the proposed development”.

The Corrib Gas Partners now have until February 5 2010 to submit further information and a revised Environment Impact Statement to the board.

Pobal Chill Chomain welcomed the decision by An Bord Pleanála to defer its decision. In a statement they said: “This is a clear vindication of the stance that local people have taken on health and safety grounds over the last 10 years, and those concerns will remain our top priority until a resolution is found.

“It is now time for a complete rethink on the Corrib project by the developers Shell and Statoil, and even more importantly by Minister Eamon Ryan and his Department, within whose remit the safety issues central to the ongoing conflict clearly lie. Serious questions now have to be asked of both ministers Ryan and Ó Cuív who, through their ‘development forum’, have been avid promoters of this dangerous scheme.

“Pobal Chill Chomain will work with all parties to ensure the genuine concerns of our community are addressed, and that any alternative development of the Corrib gas field will only proceed in a safe and sustainable manner.”

Having considered the application, An Bord Pleanála said the design documentation for the pipeline and the quantified risk analysis does not present a “complete, transparent, and adequate demonstration that the pipeline does not pose an unacceptable risk to the public”.

The board considered that 5.65 kilometres of the proposed route between Glengad and Aghoos is considered unacceptable due to its distance from dwellings should a failure occur. It said the impact on the local community during the construction and operation phases of the development would seriously injure the residential amenities of the area and the development potential of lands in Rossport.

The board also found that part of the pipeline was omitted from the application. An Bord Pleanála said that due to the lack of a risk-based framework for decision-making on major hazard pipelines and related infrastructure in Ireland, the board should adopt the UK HSE risk thresholds for assessment.

Having regard to the strategic national importance and current status of the entire Corrib gas field development, it was the view of An Bord Pleanála that it would be appropriate to approve the proposed onshore pipeline should alterations be made.

The Corrib Gas Partners therefore were asked to make alterations to the proposed development. This includes modifying the route between Glengad and Aghoos in accordance with Corridor C, within Sruwaddacon Bay. This revision will be accompanied by a revised EIS.

Further information sought by the board includes a new quantified risk analysis at the different operating conditions and different locations along the pipeline route. It has asked for an examination of the potential for pressure in the offshore pipeline to increase to wellhead pressure levels in the event that all wellhead valves had to be shut in over a prolonged period. The partners must provide an assessment of the societal risk for Glengad and the societal risk along the revised route. These are among 14 points of further information sought by An Bord Pleanála.

The Corrib Gas Partners said they will now give detailed consideration to the board’s specific requests for further information and modifications to the route.

An Bord Pleanála has said it will reopen the oral hearing into the Corrib gas onshore pipeline if Shell EP Ireland responds within three months to its requests issued this week.