Court ruling a setback for a project which has overrun on costs and time

EPA and Shell studying the decision latest setback for Corrib gas terminal

Ballinaboy bridge gas terminal: work remains suspended on tunnelling the final section of the pipeline route under Sruwadaccon estuary

Ballinaboy bridge gas terminal: work remains suspended on tunnelling the final section of the pipeline route under Sruwadaccon estuary

 

Shell E&P Ireland Ltd (SEPIL) has played down the significance of yesterday’s Commercial Court decision quashing an emissions licence for the Corrib gas terminal, but the ruling is a setback for the €3 billion project.

Were the project not at least nine years behind schedule, the setback would be far more significant.

However, the lead developer has already conceded that it could be early 2015 before gas is flowing commercially from the field - and that was before last month’s (sept) fatality during work on the final stages, when a German sub-contractor, Lars Wagner (26), lost his life.

Work remains suspended on tunnelling this final section of pipeline route under Sruwadaccon estuary - a special area of conservation (SAC) - which links the landfall for gas at Glengad to the terminal already built at Ballinaboy. A Health and Safety Authority (HSA) investigation has been in train since the fatal incident involving a valve on the tunnel boring machine.

The EPA licence which was the subject of yesterday’s (tues) ruling is a vital piece in the jigsaw of statutory authorisations for the project, and was first applied for back in 2004.

Residents objected to the licence on the basis that it posed a risk to the local public drinking water supply at Carrowmore lake, and that it could allow for controversial practices like cold venting and “flaring” of gas to relieve pressure.

The integrated pollution prevention control (IPPC) licence was given preliminary approval by the EPA in January 2007, and granted with conditions in November 2007, after an oral hearing in Belmullet which was notable for its heavy Garda presence.

The Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association forced a review of the EPA licence, following its campaign to ensure that emissions to the marine environment in Broadhaven Bay were mitigated. Shell required the fishermen’s co-operation for its offshore pipelaying operations, and, as part of a deal, the developer promised that it would use an “alternative method” of discharge for “treated produced water” or contaminated run-off.

It is this revised licence which is the subject of yesterday’s (tues) ruling. An EPA spokeswoman said it was studying the wording, but believed at this stage that the licence was quashed from the outset - rather than from a “proposed decision” or preliminary stage - and that the company would have to apply for a new licence entirely.

“The EPA accepts the decision made by the Commercial Court to quash the licence granted to Shell E&P Ireland Ltd and will now consider the court’s verdict,”it said in a short statement.

Shell said it noted that the EPA had “conceded the case brought by Mr Martin Harrington”.

“The legal challenge related to the process followed by the EPA during their determination of a review application of an IPPC Licence granted to SEPIL in 2007,”it said.

“The review application was for minor changes to the licensed activity,”it said, namely operation of the Ballinaboy gas terminal. The court developments would be “examined by SEPIL and, following consultation with the relevant bodies, SEPIL fully anticipates that the required licences will be in place for first gas,” it said.