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Irish Times: Shell insists planning problems with Corrib project can be resolved easily

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent
Shell E&P Ireland believes planning difficulties identified by An Bord Pleanala for the Corrib gas project may be resolved by simply narrowing a road access route in north Mayo.

The company has also denied that it has re-evaluated the size of the gas field, after it published a graphic marking additional wellheads in a briefing document on the 900 million project.

Copies of the document were made available at Shell’s annual general meeting in May and included a graphic with three “future wellheads”, in addition to the six associated with the field.

Critics of the project have maintained that the gas find is just one of a series of potential discoveries off the west coast and that the company’s acquisition of a 400-acre site from Coillte is intended for a much larger onshore terminal which would be expanded to process such finds.

They say this explains Shell’s determination to build an onshore terminal in the face of community opposition over safety concerns. The company did state at the Bord Pleanala oral hearing on the terminal that further finds would be routed through the onshore complex.

Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey has also indicated that the terminal would provide such a shore base, but has accepted his safety consultants’ recommendation that a “full review” of the pipeline – which was exempted from planning – would be required if additional fields were to be tied into it.

Shell E&P Ireland said the graphic showed “notional” future infrastructure and the current phase of development envisaged the drilling of one additional production well only.

Micheal O Seighin of the Shell to Sea campaign said the company knew there would be “many production wells”.

Shell has accused An Taisce and the Shell to Sea campaign of “completely overplaying” the significance of a ruling by An Bord Pleanala last week on a series of onshore developments – three of which, the board said initially, were unauthorised.

The appeals board subsequently apologised within 24 hours for a typographical error, which gave the mistaken impression that one of the developments – the beach valve facility at Glengad – required planning permission.

This admission “completely undermines” claims made by Shell to Sea that the project would now have to be reconfigured, Shell E&P Ireland said yesterday.

However, Shell to Sea has said that the beach valve has to be redesigned now anyway to comply with the Advantica safety consultants’ recommendations to the Minister for the Marine and might therefore be subject to planning approval.

Shell says that its planning consultant believes there may be a simple solution to problems that remain in relation to an entrance to the landfall and a road that travels through an EU-designated “priority habitat”.

Shell says that if the gateway or access were narrowed, then neither the road nor the access would require approval.

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