SHELL became embroiled
in legal tangles over its Corrib gas project yesterday when an
Irish minister ordered the company to dismantle a
three-kilometre section of pipeline.
The gas pipeline, part of a €900 million (£620
million) project to bring fuel from a gasfield 80 kilometres off
the coast of Co Mayo to an onshore processing facility, has been
dogged by controversy, including the arrest of five local men
protesting against the pipeline.
Noel Dempsey, the Republic’s Communications,
Marine and Natural Resources Minister, said that a section of
the line had been welded without permission.
“What I’m ordering them to do now is to undo
the length of pipeline they welded,” he said.
Shell’s work on the project is also to be
subject to more rigorous surveillance by government inspectors.
“What we will have is authorised officers who will be able to go
on site of any of the Shell works during the remainder of this
project. They will be able to do so unannounced and without any
prior notice,” the minister said.
Shell said yesterday that it believed that
consent had been granted. “The company has been meticulous in
complying with consents. As far as we are concerned consents
were in place,” a spokesman said. However, the company said it
had stopped welding until the matter had been resolved.
The regulatory confusion adds to Shell’s
difficulties in Ireland, where a small group of protesters have
doggedly opposed the laying of two kilometres of the steel pipe
across their land. Known as the Rossport Five, the men have
acquired the status of local heroes after being jailed for
contempt of court for continuing to block Shell’s diggers in
defiance of a court injunction.
Shell has announced that 91 jobs will be lost
at the construction site because of the delays.