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The Corrib gas project (Ghás Aiceanta na Coiribe) entails Royal Dutch Shell's exploitation of a large natural gas deposit off the northwest coast of Ireland. The field, located about 80 km off Erris Head in County Mayo, in water depths of 355 metres[1] is the first reported commercial natural gas discovery in Ireland since 1973.[1] Although the purported economic benefits of the project are great, the project has attracted considerable opposition.

Contents

Overview

The natural gas field was discovered in 1996 and is the first reported commercial natural gas discovery in Ireland since the Kinsale Head gas field was discovered in 1973. The gas is from Triassic strata[1] and the field is located about 80 km off Erris Head in County Mayo, in water depths of 355 metres in an area known as the Slyne Trough.[1] Reserves in the field are believed to be about 30 billion cubic metres (1 trillion ft³), 70% the volume of the Kinsale field. The natural gas in the Corrib Gas Field is a very pure form of gas, consisting of approximately 97% methane/ethane.[2]

Licensing

The licence (deepwater exploration licence No. 2/93 covering four blocks in the Slyne Trough) was granted on 1 January 1993 for a period of 11 years. It is held by Enterprise Oil, as operator, and its partners Saga Petroleum Ireland Limited, Statoil Exploration (Ireland) Limited and Marathon International Petroleum Hibernia Limited. It was issued under the licensing terms for offshore oil and gas exploration and development 1992.[3] Ownership is as follows: Shell E&P Ireland (the operator and holder of 45% of equity), Statoil Exploration (Ireland) Limited (36.5% of equity), and the Vermilion Energy Trust, who acquired Marathon International Petroleum Hibernia Limiteds share in July 2009 (18.5% of equity).[4][5]

Project Proposal

Shell proposed to develop the Corrib field as a sub-sea production facility with onshore processing. This method of development is claimed by Shell to be in line with best industry practice for gas fields of this type.

There are four parts to the Corrib project:

  1. Offshore operations including the wells and subsea facilities
  2. Offshore section of the pipeline
  3. Onshore section of the pipeline
  4. Onshore processing plant at Bellanaboy
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Offshore operations

Engineers have already drilled five wells at the Corrib field and each is ready for gas production. When in operation, each well is planned to have a so-called “christmas tree” structure above it that contains all control and monitoring equipment. Flexible individual flowlines will run from each well to a production manifold which will feed the gas into the main pipeline.[6]

Offshore Pipeline

The pipeline from the Corrib field to the landfall at Glengad is planned to be approximately 83 kilometres in length. Work on this section of the pipleine occurred in summer 2009 and involved over 7,000 lengths of pipe being welded together onboard the Solitaire pipelaying vessel,[7] the largest such ship in the world.[8]

Onshore Pipeline

The onshore pipeline is still in the proposal phase but is expected to be some 9 kilometres in length and run from landfall to the drying plant.

Onshore Processing Plant

The purpose of the plant is to dry the gas and remove impurities. The Gas can then enter the Bord Gáis pipeline network. The plant site is located 9 kilometres inland near Bellanaboy Bridge and will have, when completed, a capacity of 10 million standard cubic metres of purified gas per day.[9] The plant is expected by Shell to employ approximately 55 workers when operational.[10] In summer 2009, the plant was reported to be 75% complete.[11] The piping for the Onshore Processing Plant is manufactured by Phoenix Pipes Limited in Slane Co.Meath.

Development

  1. Offshore operations
  2. Offshore pipeline
  3. Onshore pipeline
  4. Onshore processing plant

Controversy

Some opponents of the scheme cite concerns about the health, safety and environmental impact of the onshore aspects of the project. Others are concerned with alleged irregularities and precedents surrounding the project. Many groups, most notably the Rossport Five and Shell to Sea campaigns, oppose the current plans for the project, which they regard as dangerous despite assurances from Shell.[12] A contrary position is taken by the group Pro Gas Mayo.[13]

Gardaí guard the Bellanaboy terminal site from occupation by protesters

Safety and Environmental Concerns

Pipeline Route

The upstream high pressure gas pipeline that will connect the wells to the inland processing site is planned to run through the area of Rossport, close to local residences. A report by Dr. Richard Kupriewicz concluded that "the terrain makes escape routes for the clustered population essentially impossible in the event of a [pipeline] rupture".[14]

Discharges from Drying Process

Broadhaven Bay is the proposed area to discharge toxic waste from the refining process[15] Due to the bay’s circular tidal pattern and semi-enclosed nature this toxic waste is more likely to stay within the bay rather than be washed out to sea.

Alleged Violation of Due Process

Planning permission was initially refused by Senior Planning Inspector Kevin Moore, of An Bord Pleanála (the Irish planning authority). His report stated in part: "[I]t is my submission that the proposed development of a large gas processing terminal at this rural, scenic, and unserviced area on a bogland hill some 8 kilometres inland from the Mayo coastland landfall location, with all its site development works difficulties, public safety concerns, adverse visual, ecological, and traffic impacts, and a range of other significant environmental impacts, defies any rational understanding of the term “sustainability”." In November 2009, An Bord Pleanála ordered Shell to redesign the pipeline and move its route away from homes saying it posed an "unacceptable risk".[16]

Claims of Unfavourable Terms

Purported Economic Benefits

Tax

Claims of a tax yield of some €1.7 billion over the life of the field have been made by the Irish government based on data about the field's size and 2008 gas prices.[17] Up to 2007, the Irish Petroleum Licensing Terms imposed a flat 25% income tax on gas production revenues. In August 2007, the top rate of tax on the most profitable fields was increased to 40%.[18][19] The new licensing terms called for changes to the tax imposed based upon fields ' profit ratios (equal to the rate of profit less 25% divided by the accumulated level of capital investment). Where this ration is greater than 4.5, an additional 15% tax was imposed, where it is between 3.0 and 4.5 an additional 10% was imposed and where the profit ratio is between 1.5 and 3.0, and additional 5% tax was added. Less profitable fields were not effected.[20]

Employment

The construction of the pipeline and plant is expected by Shell's economic consultants, Goodbody Economic Consultants, to create 800 temporary jobs [21] and boost the local Mayo economy by approximately €181 million. The plant is expected by Shell to employ approximately 55 workers when operational.[22]

References

  1. ^ a b c d "Corrib Gas Field". Offshore Technology. http://www.offshore-technology.com/projects/corrib/. Retrieved 2009-11-12.  
  2. ^ Gas Content
  3. ^ "Dáil Éireann - Volume 509 - 20 October, 1999 - Written Answers. - Offshore Exploration". Historical-debates.oireachtas.ie. http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/D/0509/D.0509.199910200077.html. Retrieved 2009-11-12.  
  4. ^ The Earthtimes. "Vermilion Energy Trust Closes Agreement to Acquire Working Interest in Corrib Field in Ireland". Earthtimes.org. http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/vermilion-energy-trust-closes-agreement,910234.shtml. Retrieved 2009-11-12.  
  5. ^ "Irish Minister Marks Vermilion's Entry into Corrib Gas Devt". Rigzone. http://www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?a_id=79013. Retrieved 2009-11-12.  
  6. ^ "Shell in Ireland". Shell.com. http://www.shell.com/home/content/ie-en/about_shell/shell_businesses/ep/corrib/development/sub_sea/offshore_wells_subsea_tech.html. Retrieved 2009-11-12.  
  7. ^ "Shell in Ireland". Shell.com. http://www.shell.com/home/content/ie-en/about_shell/shell_businesses/ep/corrib/development/pipeline/pipeline.html. Retrieved 2009-11-12.  
  8. ^ "Solitaire". Allseas.com. http://www.allseas.com/uk/20/equipment/solitaire.html. Retrieved 2009-11-12.  
  9. ^ "Shell in Ireland". Shell.com. http://www.shell.com/home/content/ie-en/about_shell/shell_businesses/ep/corrib/development/terminal/terminal.html. Retrieved 2009-11-12.  
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ [3]
  13. ^ "The Mayo News - Shell quarries vandalised". Mayonews.ie. 2007-11-13. http://www.mayonews.ie/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2745&Itemid=38. Retrieved 2009-11-12.  
  14. ^ [4]
  15. ^ "Marine Times News". Marinetimes.ie. http://www.marinetimes.ie/Assets/_archive_2005/0105_news_06.html. Retrieved 2008-10-24.  
  16. ^ "Shell is ordered to re-route 'risky' Corrib gas pipeline". Irish Independent. 2009-11-04. http://www.independent.ie/national-news/shell-is-ordered-to-reroute-risky-corrib-gas-pipeline-1932604.html. Retrieved 2009-11-04.  
  17. ^ "closing of the Sale of Marathon’s Corrib Gas Field Shareholding - Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources". Dcenr.gov.ie. http://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Press+Releases/closing+of+the+Sale+of+Marathon%E2%80%99s+Corrib+Gas+Field+Shareholding.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-12.  
  18. ^ [5]
  19. ^ "Shell in Ireland". Shell.com. http://www.shell.com/home/content/ie-en/about_shell/shell_businesses/ep/corrib/security_supply/security_supply.html. Retrieved 2009-11-12.  
  20. ^ "Government announces new round of licensing for oil and gas exploration under new licensing terms - Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources". Dcenr.gov.ie. http://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Natural/Petroleum+Affairs+Division/Latest+News/Government+announces+new+round+of+licensing+for+oil+and+gas+exploration+under+new+licensing+terms.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-12.  
  21. ^ "Shell in Ireland". Shell.com. http://www.shell.com/home/content/ie-en/about_shell/shell_businesses/ep/corrib/about/overview/overview.html. Retrieved 2009-11-12.  
  22. ^ "Shell in Ireland". Shell.com. http://www.shell.com/home/content/ie-en/about_shell/shell_businesses/ep/corrib. Retrieved 2009-11-12.  

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