Enterprise To Submit Corrib Development Plans

Enterprise Energy Ireland and partners are expected to submit the development plan for the Corrib gas field off Mayo this week. Marking what has been billed as a "milestone in Irish exploration history", it also represents a key stage in the largest infrastructure project in the west.

The words are those of the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Mr Fahey, who awarded a petroleum lease to the consortium late last week. It is the first new production lease in 30 years, as it is the only one to be issued under his Department's 1975 and 1992 licensing terms.

However, even as the lease was being prepared for signature, it came under attack from SIPTU. The trade union leader, Mr Des Geraghty, said the Government should never have given the kind of concessions it gave EEI and partners for the Corrib field.

"I think there should always be a take for the State," Mr Geraghty said before the lease announcement. "I think that the gas is extremely important as an indigenous energy source for economic development, but I believe that from the start the concessions that were given were unbelievable.

"There were no jobs in it. There was very little for the Irish economy and we are now suffering the consequences of a very bad policy, which former minister, Ray Burke, has to answer for," Mr Geraghty added. "I think it goes back a long time, but at this time I think the people of the west are right to demand that we maximize the benefit of that resource for this region."

EEI and partners Statoil Exploration (Ireland) Ltd and Marathon International Petroleum (Hibernia) Ltd still have a number of stages to go through before gas can be brought ashore, but the lease awarded by the Minister effectively signs over the mineral resource to them.

The plan of development for the Corrib field must be accompanied by an environmental impact statement (EIS), and other authorizations include a foreshore license The EIS will cover all elements of the project from the wells to the onshore terminal, and the lessees are required to issue a public notice relating to all applications. That public notice is expected to be issued this week, along with the development plan.

Comments and observations on the EIS must be made within a calendar month. The Department of the Marine and Natural Resources said the Minister will forward submissions or observations to the lessees, upon receipt, and request a response. They will also be referred by him to the Marine License Vetting Committee (MLVC), described as an independent expert group.