"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
SHELL AND its partners in the Corrib natural gas field plan to spend €800 million and support 700 jobs completing the development between now and 2014.
Work on the final phase of the development, a 5km tunnel to link the pipes from the field to the gas terminal at Bellanaboy – where it will tie in to the national network – is under way. Shell Exploration Production (EP) Ireland’s managing director Michael Crothers predicted yesterday gas will begin flowing from the reservoir in late 2014 or early 2015.
The construction of the tunnel and other work on the development will sustain 700 direct jobs and a further 750 indirectly, according to an economic study commissioned by Shell and carried out by Goodbody Stockbrokers.
Operating and maintaining the field will employ around 175 people full-time.
The report estimates the field will contribute €4.4 billion to the Republic’s economy and supply up to 60 per cent of Irish natural gas needs during its 20-year life-span.
Shell has 45 per cent of the Corrib field and is also the operator. Norway’s state oil company, Statoil, has 36.5 per cent, while Canadian group Vermillion has 18.5 per cent. “Shell EP Ireland is responsible for the lion’s share of the investment,” Mr Crothers said. The Corrib field has so far cost about €3 billion to develop.
Mr Crothers said the field would provide a secure source of natural gas. About 90 per cent of the State’s requirements are imported, mainly from the North Sea, while 60 per cent of the electricity used in the country as a whole is generated using gas.
Any increase in pressure on supplies in the North Sea has a knock-on effect here. Mr Crothers pointed out that during the exceptionally cold 2010-11 winter, supplies were briefly threatened.
The project has had spin-off effects for Irish engineering and construction firms involved. Roadbridge, involved in building the processing plant, has used its experience to win a contract in Scotland. Engineering group Mercury is pursuing oil and gas opportunities in Canada. “Projects such as this raise the game for everybody involved,” Mr Crothers said.
Responding to the Goodbody report, John Monaghan of community group Pobal Chill Chomáin questioned some of the employment figures and claimed Shell can write-off all its expenses, even those in other states, against tax.
“Do these local employment figures include the private security personnel, the majority of whom, I believe, are not from Mayo or even Ireland. I believe they live in Enniscrone, which is in Sligo, not Mayo,” he said.
The Dublin Shell to Sea organisation, which wants the gas processed at sea rather than on shore, disputed the company’s calculation that the Corrib field will provide up to 60 per cent of Irish natural gas needs during its lifetime.
The organisation said that, based on Shell’s estimate that the field held 30 billion cubic metres and that Irish consumption is five billion cubic metres, this amounted to six years’ consumption, or 25 per cent of national requirements over 20 years.