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The Corrib Gas Pipeline
The pipeline from the Corrib field to the gas terminal at Bellanaboy Bridge will be just over 90 kilometres in length. Approximately 83 kilometres of this will be offshore linking the wells at the Corrib field to the landfall at Glengad, with around a further 9 kilometres linking to the terminal at Bellanaboy, County Mayo.
The Corrib gas pipeline is 20 inches (50 centimetres) in diameter. The wall of the pipeline is more than one inch thick (27 millimetres) and is made of high-grade carbon steel. By way of comparison, Bord Gais Eireann pipelines running throughout the country are 9 millimetres thick.
The outside of the pipeline will have several layers of protective coating, including plastic and concrete, to protect it from external corrosion.
Internal corrosion is controlled by the continuous injection of corrosion inhibitor via the umbilical. Corrosion is monitored in real time by a subsea corrosion monitoring spool. An internal inspection tool, referred to as a ‘smart pig’, will be pushed through the pipeline at intervals to gather data on the internal condition of the pipeline and monitor the integrity of the pipeline throughout.
As a safety measure, the pipeline was originally designed to withstand 345 bar in the highly unlikely event of pressure increasing above the normal operating pressure.
Advantica were commissioned by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, to carry out an independent safety review of the Corrib gas pipeline.
The findings of this review were published in May 2006 and concluded that “proper consideration was given to safety issues in the selection process for the preferred design option and the locations of the landfall, pipeline route and terminal.
Advantica recommended a system be put in place to ensure that the onshore pipeline pressure could not exceed 144 bar, suggesting this to be a practical and effective measure to reduce risk in light of societal concerns that had been expressed.
As part of the design of the onshore pipeline, which was approved by An Bord Pleanála in January 2011, the maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) within this section will now be 100 bar. Its MAOP under the 2002 design was 150 bar. However, the normal operating pressure in the onshore pipeline will be approximately 85 bar and the pressure reduced as gas in the Corrib reservoir naturally depletes.
In addition, a Landfall Valve Installation has been incorporated into the design, which automatically shuts off the pressure from offshore in the very unlikely event that the pressure in the onshore pipeline should rise towards 100 bar.
Over 7,000 lengths of pipe were welded together onboard the Solitaire pipelay vessel during summer 2009. The pipeline was laid on the seabed from the shore out to the wells in the Corrib gas field, 83 kilometres away.
The onshore pipeline route is now 234 metres from the nearest occupied house - more than three times as far away from occupied housing compared to the originally approved route. The route will have minimal impact on the local environment and designated conservation sites such as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA).
The onshore pipeline will be underground along its entire route.
Work on the 2009 offshore development programme for Corrib began in April. The programme involved preparing the landfall site at Glengad, laying the offshore section of the Corrib pipeline in addition to completing certain subsea infrastructural works at the Corrib field.
Solitaire pipelay vessel
Starting in June 2009, over 7,000 lengths of pipe were welded together onboard the Solitaire pipelay vessel. The pipeline was then laid on the seabed from the shore out to the wells in the Corrib gas field, 83 kilometres away. Since completion of the pipelay works, the entire area, including the nearshore and cliff face at Glengad, have been reinstated.
Consents and permits
All the necessary consents and permits required for the 2009 offshore programme have been granted. The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) as well as the Coastal Zone Management Division of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food confirmed that work on the offshore section of the pipeline could proceed under the existing consents.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government also reviewed and approved the construction method statements for the offshore pipelay works.
The necessary letter of approval for the 2009 Environmental Management Plan was issued on April 9th 2009.
In 2002 Shell E&P Ireland Limited (SEPIL) was granted consent to construct the Corrib Gas Pipeline from the Corrib field, 83 kilometres offshore, to the onshore gas processing terminal at Bellanaboy Bridge.
In 2006, following a recommendation from independent mediator, Mr Peter Cassells, SEPIL agreed to re-route the onshore section of the pipeline. The new onshore pipeline application has no impact on the existing offshore pipeline consents, which remain valid.
In January 2011 planning permission was granted by An Bord Pleanála (ABP) for the construction of the Corrib gas onshore pipeline.
Announcing the decision to grant the permission, ABP stated the development “would help safeguard the energy security of the State, would benefit the Western region of Ireland, would not seriously injure the amenities of the area, would not be prejudicial to public health or to public safety and would not be likely to have significant effects on the environment.”
In February of the same year a Section 40 consent was awarded under the Gas Act by the Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources, while in March the final permit for the onshore pipeline – the Foreshore Licence – was granted by the Department of the Environment.
The decision to re-route the onshore pipeline came about in 2006, after work on the Corrib project had stopped for 14 months. This stoppage followed the jailing, in summer 2005, of five local landowners who refused to allow Shell E&P Ireland Limited (SEPIL) to proceed with construction work relating to the onshore section of pipeline.
Their objections centered on the operating pressure of the pipeline and its proximity to housing. In an effort to resolve the situation, the Irish Government appointed international consultants, Advantica, to conduct an independent safety review of the onshore pipeline.
In their report published in May 2006, Advantica concluded, “proper consideration was given to safety issues in the selection process for the preferred design option and the locations of the landfall, pipeline and terminal”. Following a recommendation by Advantica, the Corrib gas partners agreed to limit the pressure in the onshore section of the pipeline to 144 bar, less than half the original design pressure of the pipeline.
Also in 2005, the Irish Government appointed an independent mediator, Mr Peter Cassells, who in his report recommended that the route of the onshore section of the Corrib Gas Pipeline be modified. SEPIL committed to modifying the route and RPS consultants were appointed to undertake this rerouting process.
In January 2007, a process of public consultation began with a view to agreeing a modified route for the Corrib onshore gas pipeline. In June 2007, eight corridor options for the Corrib onshore pipeline were identified and presented to the public. Extensive consultation took place with landowners, the local community and statutory bodies. Three short-listed corridors were presented to the public in September 2007 and, following further consultation and environmental and technical studies variations of two of these corridors emerged in November 2007.
This comprehensive and transparent route selection process lasted 14 months and included an 11-month public consultation process. In April 2008, RPS identified the preferred new route for the Corrib Onshore Pipeline.
In February 2009 applications to construct the Corrib onshore pipeline along the new route were submitted by Sepil to An Bord Pleanála (ABP), the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and to the Coastal Zone Management Division of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
An oral hearing into the planning application was held by ABP in May and June 2009. ABP subsequently requested further information regarding the application stating “it would be appropriate to approve the proposed onshore pipeline development should alterations be made to the proposed development”. A revised Environmental Impact Statement was submitted on 31 May 2010.
This revised application outlined details for the routing and construction of the pipeline through Sruwaddacon Bay, including a tunnel under the bay in which the pipeline will be laid. The distance to the nearest occupied house was increased to 234 metres, which is more than three times the distance of the originally approved 2002 route. The Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure (MAOP) was reduced to 100 bar and the normal operating pressure to 85bar, which is similar to that of Bord Gáis Éireann’s transmission lines located throughout the country.
All of these proposed changes were scrutinised at a six-week oral hearing in August and September 2010 and planning permission for the revised pipeline was granted in early 2011. These permissions are the subject of judicial review proceedings brought in the High Court by An Taisce and two local residents. The proceedings are due to come before the Commercial Court in October.
Emergency Response Plan for Corrib Onshore Pipeline
Condition 11 of the Strategic Infrastructure Act approval for the Corrib Onshore Pipeline requires that an Emergency Response Plan for the area between Glengad, Rossport, Aughoose and Bellanaboy be prepared before the onshore pipeline becomes operational.
This plan sets out standard agreed procedures for an effective and coordinated response in the event of an emergency. The plan was developed in accordance with existing emergency plans of the principal response agencies for the local area.
A public consultation period opened for submissions between July 16 and August 13 2013. A copy of the final ER plan is available below.