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Irish Independent: New report expresses concern over safety of pipeline: A GOVERNMENT-backed report has raised serious concerns about the safety of the controversial Corrib gasline.: Friday December 09, 2005

 

Anne-Marie Walsh

 

A GOVERNMENT-backed report has raised serious concerns about the safety of the controversial Corrib gasline.

 

The investigation into the safety of the pipeline commissioned by Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey, has acknowledged the 'potential for people to be harmed' if there is an accident.

 

It also recommended that pressure in the pipes of the planned gasline would need to be just half of the capacity they were designed for.

 

British experts who penned the report warned that special care needs to be taken with the onshore section of the pipeline.

 

They said that the potential implications of a possible accident should be investigated by the Department before the project goes ahead.

 

The pipeline has already come under pressure during a lengthy court battle that resulted in the jailing of five local men.

 

Its onshore section, which is only 70 metres from some homes between Bellanaboy and Rossport in north Mayo, was vigorously opposed by the Rossport Five.

 

In the report published yesterday, British consultants found that some parts of the pipeline will need to drastically reduce pressure to avoid hazards.

 

They said that pressure should be limited to half the level the pipe was designed for to reduce risk.

 

Pressure fears

 

The report said the maximum pressure at which gas can be pumped should not exceed 144 bars, although protesters have argued that the pipe could carry gas at a rate of 345 bars of pressure.

 

Shell has insisted the maximum levels of gas to pass through the line would be between 135 and 150 bars.

 

However, the assessment by Advantica is not as critical of Shell's plans as a previous review of the pipeline carried out by the Centre for Public Inquiry.

 

Locals Brid McGarry and Jacinta Healy said last night that they are still concerned about the health and safety implications of the pipeline and that the report justified the Rossport Five's actions. Some locals have branded the report which was commissioned by Minister Dempsey, into the safety of the pipeline a 'whitewash'.

 

The conclusions were met with scorn by Shell to Sea, the group at the forefront of the campaign against the pipeline. Spokesman Dr Mark Garavan said the terms of reference were flawed as alternatives such as off-shore production were not considered.

 

TDs last night said Mr Dempsey must now hold Shell to ransom - using his powers to stop the project - so that it will implement its crucial recommendations. Shell has said it will study the report. Inadequacies

 

"The minister must ensure that the highest standards are enforced - and no half measures," said Fine Gael's natural resources spokesperson Bernard Durkan.

 

Meanwhile, Labour's Tommy Broughan pointed to the serious inadequacies highlighted in the report and the Green Party's Eamon Ryan said Shell needs to go back to the drawing board to design new control measures.

 

However, the report put together by a team of 14 experts said that proper consideration had been given to safety issues regarding the design of the route in Bellanaboy.

 

Mr Dempsey said the report showed the route would be acceptable if changes were made. It was up to Shell to carry out the recommendations. He said the previous report by the Centre for Public Inquiry was two-thirds political and one-third consultancy.

 

But Advantica also criticised the system by which the pipeline project is carried out, and said all aspects of it should be investigated by the Department at the start rather than during the roll out of the project.

 

The public and interested parties have two weeks to comment on the report and a final review will be completed in the New Year.

 

The report has already been presented to the Rossport Five. 

 

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