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Irish Times: Minister praises pipeline review as thorough: “The Minister said the Shell to Sea campaign's contention that the report did not address the issue of proximity of the high-pressure pipe to homes was a "nonsense"…”: Friday Dec 09, 2005


Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent


Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey has described the draft safety review of the Corrib gas onshore pipeline as "very thorough".


The draft review by Advantica Consultants says the onshore pipeline linking the Corrib gas field to a refinery at Bellanaboy in north Mayo has "been designed to meet or exceed appropriate standards" and accords with "best international practice".


However, it says Shell took "no account of societal risk to the local population as a whole" in its risk assessment, and it recommends the pipeline's pressure should be limited to a maximum of 144 bar to enable it to be reclassified as a "Class 2" suburban pipeline.


The draft report also recommends provision of a formal integrity management plan and an independent audit and inspection procedure. It calls for a review of the consent and permission system by the Minister's department, and says Ireland should adopt a formal "risk-based framework" for assessing the safety of major infrastructural projects.


Commenting on the findings yesterday, the Minister said the report was "very thorough", and allowed for a two-week period for further submissions. He did not envisage any difficulties in accepting the main recommendations pertaining to his department, if they were endorsed by his Corrib technical advisory group.


However, some issues, such as the recommendation to adopt a risk-based framework for assessing the safety of major infrastructural projects, would need Government approval, he said. "I don't envisage any major difficulty with that," he added.


The Minister said the Shell to Sea campaign's contention that the report did not address the issue of proximity of the high-pressure pipe to homes was a "nonsense", as there was a whole chapter on this aspect. The consultants clearly showed risks to individuals were within internationally acceptable limits, he said.


Mr Dempsey said he "did not see any connection" between this week's events relating to the Centre for Public Inquiry (CPI) and the timing of publication of his safety review. The CPI, the private organisation which has had its core funding withdrawn by Atlantic Philanthropies, published a report on the Corrib gas field last month that highlighted serious safety risks concerning the proposed onshore pipeline.


The CPI commissioned a study of the pipeline by US expert Richard Kuprewicz, who said the minimum safe distance for the pipe, which he described as "unique", was between 200 metres and 400 metres from residents and individuals. The report also charted successive governments' relationship with the oil and gas industry over the past three decades, including the relaxation of fiscal and licensing conditions by Fianna Fail-led administrations.


The CPI study noted that Providence Resources, controlled by Tony O'Reilly, owner of Independent News and Media, was the largest Irish company involved in offshore oil and gas activity.


Mr Dempsey said the Minister for Justice's views on CPI's executive director Frank Connolly were on record over past months, and Mr McDowell was simply responding this week to a Dail question by an Opposition TD. 


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