Shell told re-route Corrib pipeline over safety

ENERGY giant Shell was hit with a serious setback yesterday after being told by planners to re-route part of the controversial Corrib gas pipeline because it posed a safety risk.

An Bord Pleanála found more than half of a 9km onshore stretch, carrying raw gas over bogland in north Mayo, must be altered because of the dangers to nearby homes.

It ruled that information supplied by the Corrib Gas Partners was not a complete, transparent or adequate demonstration that the high pressure pipeline does not pose an unacceptable risk to the public.

An Bord Pleanála has asked Shell to make several safety changes, particularly to 5.6km of the 9km pipeline which it says is too close to homes if a failure occurred.

Planning chiefs have also said Shell’s design documents fail to adequately show the structure does not pose “an unacceptable risk to the public”.

Shell has until February next year to address the concerns. It will have to resubmit another environmental impact statement and the altered application will then go to another public hearing before a report is sent back to An Bord Pleanála. The delay means a decision on the modified pipeline may not be reached before the middle of next year.

In a four-page letter to Shell and the Corrib Gas Partners, the board said it would provisionally support the pipeline linking the offshore gas field with the refinery being built at Bellanaboy, if the developers make the necessary alterations.

The route is deemed unacceptable due to:

* The plan to put the pipeline near dwellings that are within the hazard range of the pipeline

* Problems with works where convoys of heavy goods vehicles will travel over narrow bog roads

* The impact of construction on the local community which would “seriously injure the residential amenities of the area”

Crucially, planning chiefs have asked Shell to modify the pipeline route so that it moves away from populated areas of Rossport in Mayo, and goes through Sruwaddacon Bay, a protected area.

Other changes demanded include addressing hazard distances from the pipeline, as well as issues around ground stability and the protection of peat. Planning chiefs also want all failure modes for the gas project examined, including the possibility of third-party, intentional damage and the existence of wet gas and CO2 in the pipeline.

Reacting to the demands, Shell said it noted the board’s decision to approve the project once changes were made. The company added: “In relation to the issue of safety, the Corrib Gas Partners remain firmly of the view that the pipeline, as designed, is safe and meets all international standards and industry best practice.”

But opponents claimed the planning decision vindicated the stand taken by groups over the last decade.

John Monaghan, Pobail Cill Chomáin spokesman, said planners had finally stepped in after 10 years of fighting. “It is clear that the project as proposed does not meet basic health and safety requirements, as we have known all along,” he said.

More in this section