Corrib project cost to top €3.2bn

The cost of developing the Corrib Gas project is now expected to top €3.2 billion, with the final phase of the project expected to sustain more than 700 jobs.

However, Shell Ireland admitted yesterday that it may not be until early 2015 before gas is produced from the field off Co Mayo.

Yesterday, the Corrib Gas Partners: Shell, Statoil and Vermillion announced an €800m investment in Ireland to complete project construction that will sustain the 705 jobs.

The €800m is in addition to the €2.4bn spent on the project to date to the end of December.

The newly-appointed managing director of Shell Ireland, Michael Crothers, said yesterday it will not be until late-2014/early-2015 before commercial gas is flowing from the field.

The Corrib gas partners are already nine years behind the initial target to start generating revenues from the field and the projected €3.2bn spend is four times the original €800m estimate for the project.

A 5km tunnel is required to bring the gas ashore to the on-shore refinery at Bellanaboy and Mr Crothers said that the spend on the tunnel will account for “a significant chunk” of the €800m.

Mr Crothers said that seismic tests of the Corrib Gas reservoir will take place this summer and it may confirm that the Corrib Gas field is larger — or smaller — than the current estimate.

He said that the Corrib gas field, in global terms, is a “medium-sized field”, with Goodbody Economic Consultants estimating that it contains 800bn cubic feet of gas and will supply 60% of the country’s natural gas needs.

Mr Crothers said: “At a time when the economy is in a difficult place, the Corrib gas project is a beacon in terms of investment and job creation. Over the next three years, €800m will be invested in Ireland by the Corrib partners in the final phase of the project, sustaining the equivalent of 705 full-time positions and 760 indirect jobs.”

There are currently 600 people employed on the project and the workforce size is expected to peak at over 1,000 for a short period in 2013.

Mr Crothers said that the machine that will be used to bore the tunnel under Sruwaddacon Bay “is the length of a rugby pitch at 140 metres”.

The project has been the source of strong opposition at its site in Co Mayo and in the courts.

Asked does he believe that the project will face continued opposition, Mr Crothers said: “It is hard to say. I can’t really speculate on what might happen in the future.”

He said: “The vast majority of local people support the project. It is exciting to see the spin-off benefits for the local communities in Co Mayo.”

Shell Ireland announced details of the final phase of the project yesterday as Goodbody Economic Consultants stated that the operation of the project — for a period of 15 to 20 years — will add €4.4bn to national gross domestic product.

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