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Irish Times: Shell link to 'independent' consultants for gas pipeline: "Independent" consultants hired by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey to review the safety of the Corrib gas onshore pipeline are part-owned by the project's major shareholder, Shell. (ShellNews.net) 28 May 05

 

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent

 

"Independent" consultants hired by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey to review the safety of the Corrib gas onshore pipeline are part-owned by the project's major shareholder, Shell.

 

British Pipeline Agency (BPA) Ltd is jointly-owned by BP and Shell UK, and was commissioned earlier this year by the Minister to conduct an "independent" evaluation of the high-pressure onshore pipeline which will transport gas from the Corrib gas field off the Mayo coast to the proposed terminal at Bellanaboy.

 

The high-pressure pipeline has already been the subject of unsuccessful court challenges by several north Mayo landowners who hold safety concerns, and is outside the remit of the Health and Safety Authority.

 

Shell E&P Ireland Ltd (SEPIL) told The Irish Times last night that it informed the Minister's department this week of a potential conflict of interest, as soon as it became aware that it held an equity stake in the British-based engineering consultancy firm.

 

Shell said it became aware of the identity of the consultants on May 10th, when it was asked to respond to some technical questions.

 

"At that point, it was neither necessary nor appropriate for SEPIL to question the qualifications of the contracted consultants as management of the review was solely a matter for the department."

 

Information on BPA published on the internet states that the company was founded in 1969 as a joint venture between BP Oil UK and Shell UK.

 

The Minister appointed the consultants after Shell reactivated its application for consent to install and commission the high-pressure pipeline in February 2005.

 

Speaking in the Dail on March 10th, 2005, the Minister said he intended to appoint a consultant to review a quantified risk assessment of the pipeline (already carried out by the Corrib gas field's former owners, Enterprise Energy Ireland).

 

Earlier this week the Minister confirmed that he was publishing the documentation and making it available to the public in several Garda stations in Mayo.

 

It was expected that he would give consent to install and commission the pipeline, prompting Mayo Independent TD Jerry Cowley, who has questioned the independence of the risk audits, to appeal to him to defer his decision.

 

In a statement last night the Minister's department said that BPA, which is based in Hemel Hempstead, was appointed by tender and did not raise the issue of any potential conflict of interest.

 

However, the Minister had instructed officials to order a further review of the quantified risk assessment immediately.

 

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