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Irish Times: Minister orders Shell to dismantle Corrib pipeline: A response sent to the Minister last week is understood to have involved an apology without admitting liability.: Monday 1 August 2005

 

Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey has ordered Shell E&P Ireland to dismantle the Corrib gas pipeline section which it has welded together onshore in north Mayo, writes Lorna Siggins , Marine Correspondent.

 

Just under 3km of pipeline had been welded without ministerial approval and the Minister informed the company last night that it must be taken apart.

 

The Minister also told Shell that it will be subject to closer monitoring by his new ministerial technical group as a result of the breach.

 

He has also asked it to confirm what the company's understanding of a "consent" actually is. The new technical group for the Corrib gas project is independent of the department's petroleum affairs division (PAD).

 

The Minister's direction comes just a week after his letter to Mr Andy Pyle, chairman of Shell E&P Ireland, in which he said that stringing and welding of pipeline lengths by the company between the eastern crossing of Sruwaddacon Bay and the terminal site at Bellanaboy Bridge represented "a departure from the terms of the consents issued" in relation to the Corrib gas project.

 

Shell acknowledged that a "technical breach" had occurred, while stating that it had "been meticulous in complying with all of the conditions attached to the various consents issued to the project to date".

 

A response sent to the Minister last week is understood to have involved an apology without admitting liability.

 

Work on the onshore pipeline has been suspended by the company since a new safety review was commissioned by the Minister. The closing date for tenders for the new review was last Friday and the technical group will be involved in selecting the successful bid.

 

Shell has also temporarily suspended work on other parts of the 900 million project due to protests at the sites over the imprisonment of five residents who are opposed to the high-pressure pipeline on safety and environmental grounds. The five men - four farmers, Willie Corduff, Brendan Philbin, Philip and Vincent McGrath, and retired schoolteacher Micheal O Seighin - refused to purge their contempt of court last Monday on the basis that this also involved an undertaking not to interfere with or protest over Shell's work. The five men and their supporters are calling for an offshore terminal.

 

Supporters of the five men called yesterday on the Department of the Marine to guarantee the integrity and safety of Shell's construction sites in north Mayo, following the company's temporary suspension of work.

 

The campaign has also proposed that a suitably qualified observer be given access by Shell to its gas terminal site at Bellanaboy, given the "absence of trust between Shell and the local community".

 

The department said its environmental monitoring group would monitor "any environmental issues that may arise" and would be meeting on August 9th.

 

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