Skip to main content

“Statoil’s reputation in Ireland is ruined forever,” says Norway academic

Ellen Kongsnes - Aftenbladet

The Corrib scandal would not happened in Norway, oil researcher Helge Ryggvik claims. He believes the project has destroyed the Statoil’s reputation in Ireland.

Things were extremely heated when Oslo University’s Helge Ryggvik visited the local community in Mayo, northwestern Ireland, in 2006. Five men from Rossport were jailed for 94 days the previous year for refusing oil companies Shell, Statoil and Marathon to pass freely when they were laying the gas pipeline from the Corrib field in the Atlantic Ocean.

Local inhabitants demonstrated every morning at 6am in the area where preparations for the gas processing facility were just beginning.

“It was a very strong experience for me visiting the area. The landscape is reminiscent of the northwest coast of Norway, for example on the island of Stadt,” Mr Ryggvik says.

Oil a way out

He points out that while there has been a struggle in Norway to get bring the oil and gas ashore in a pipeline to ensure industrial spin-offs, the demand from residents west of Ireland has been to keep the gas away.

“They don’t want it ashore in these vulnerable areas. And I think that oil companies would meet the same resistance should they do the same sort of thing at similar locations in Norway. Kårstø, Kollsnes, Nyhamn, and Mongstad are places where it has been possible to lay pipes and industrial facilities without disturbing the natural surroundings too much.”

Operator Shell is committed to communicating that the Corrib project has positive spillover effects on the local community and that many are positive to it. Mr Ryggvik noticed a polarisation in the community when he was there too.

“In many ways, this is the oil industry's character. It can be seen as a way out in an area hit by unemployment, and it knows how to play on this. Oil companies can promise a lot of money, because they have a lot of money.”

Strong anger

Continued strong opposition to the Corrib project amongst parts of the local community does not surprise Mr Ryggvik.

“It’s an enduring anger that has taken a hold. Whatever the outcome is, Statoil as a company will struggle in Ireland, and things are irreparably damaged. The bitterness is very understandable. Oil companies overran the locals at the beginning of the project, something they didn’t need to do. I believe it’s obvious that they could have completed the project without opposition if they’d been willing to extend the pipeline considerably and find more suitable locations on land.

Posted Date: 
29 May 2013