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Gulf of Mexico-type pollution disaster could not happen here, says Minister

Lorna Siggins - Irish Times

A DEEPWATER Horizon-type pollution incident could never happen in Ireland, due to the Government’s monitoring of offshore drilling, Minister of State for Natural Resources Conor Lenihan has said.

Shell EP Ireland’s drilling programme off the west coast this summer will also be “closely monitored” and the rig hired by the company will be “inspected thoroughly”, Mr Lenihan has said.

Mr Lenihan was responding to concerns expressed by Siptu’s offshore oil and gas committee about the new oversight measures which the Minister has promised for offshore drilling in Irish waters.

A Transocean-owned rig arrived off the Mayo coast in early June to work on the Corrib gas field. Transocean also owned Deepwater Horizon which exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20th with the loss of 11 lives and widespread pollution.

Siptu’s Pádraig Campbell has questioned the timing of announcing the special oversight measures, two days in advance of Mr Lenihan’s announcement of a new licensing round for exploration opportunities.

Mr Campbell also said the new safety monitoring measures would be “useless” if the Department of Energy did not employ independent inspection.

However, Mr Lenihan said the department’s existing independent engineering adviser, Keane Offshore Integrity Ltd (KOIL), audits each well examination to ensure that it had been “properly executed”, including equipment testing.

“When satisfied with the results, KOIL issues certificates of fitness for purpose for the drilling rigs and standby vessels,” he said.

“Even before the new special oversight, the safety procedures in Ireland would have ensured that a Gulf of Mexico-type incident could not happen here,” added Mr Lenihan.