Irish Planners Ask Shell to Rethink Gas Pipe Route

LONDON (Dow Jones), Nov. 4, 2009

Royal Dutch Shell PLC has been asked by Ireland's planning board to consider an alternative route for a nine-kilometer onshore pipeline to deliver gas from its Corrib fields off the west coast of Ireland to a processing terminal, a company spokesman said Wednesday.

Shell has been given a Feb. 5 deadline to produce an environmental impact assessment for the alternate route--through a bay further away from the town of Rossport--that the spokesman said is "challenging but achievable."

It is too early to say if there will be any impact on Shell's target of bringing first gas ashore from Corrib in 2010 or 2011, the spokesman said.

The onshore gas processing terminal is 80% complete and all offshore wells have been drilled, he said.

The original route of the pipeline close to the town of Rossport has provoked intense opposition for several years due to safety fears and a feeling among local people that they had been insufficiently consulted.

"The pipeline as designed is safe and meets all industry standards," said the shell spokesman. Shell and its partners have already agreed to more than halve the pressure in the onshore gas pipeline to assuage local concerns, he said.

A spokeswoman for protest group Shell to Sea said in a statement: "What An Bord Pleanala have really shown today is that the Corrib gas pipeline is not safe to be routed through our community, or indeed any residential area."

An Bord Pleanala (The Planning Board) is an independent statutory administrative planning tribunal that decides upon planning appeals in the Republic of Ireland.

A government appointed independent safety review of the onshore pipeline published in May 2006 concluded that proper consideration was given to safety issues in design of the pipeline and terminal.

The Corrib field was discovered in 1996. Shell's partners in the project are Norway's Statoil AG and Canada's Vermillion Energy.

The project consists of offshore sub sea gas production infrastructure, an offshore pipeline to the beach and an onshore pipeline to the Bellanaboy gas processing terminal.  

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