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Q: Has the Irish Government given away its natural resources cheaply to international explorations companies?

Arguments about Ireland's “great gas giveaway” often ignore the facts. Irish and international exploration companies, have invested in excess of €2 billion drilling unsuccessfully in Irish waters over the past 30 years.

Approximately 140 unsuccessful wells have been drilled. The average cost of drilling a single deep water exploration well off the Irish coast of Ireland exceeds €50 million. The chances of achieving exploration success are less than 40 to 1.

Despite all this drilling, Ireland currently has only one gas field in production: the Kinsale field which is nearly depleted. The Corrib field, which was discovered in 1996, will not be in production until 2010/2011.

Successive Irish governments, like many others in Europe, have chosen to invite private companies, to bear the significant financial risks associated with exploration rather than expose taxpayers to it.

Once in production, the Corrib Gas Partners will pay 25% tax on profits. This is twice the rate of Corporation Tax levied on all other companies in Ireland – and reflects the fact that natural resources are being harvested.

The Corrib gas project is something that benefits us all - it will bring security of energy supply to Ireland, jobs to the local area and opportunities for talented people to develop their skills working on one of Ireland's most exciting engineering projects.

Q: Why are Irish taxpayers paying for the policing of protest against the Corrib project in Mayo?

Policing of protestors of the Corrib project is a matter for An Garda Síochána.

While we fully recognise the right to peaceful protest, we are working within the democratic process and the law and our staff and local contractors also have a right to carry out their day-to-day work without disruption. It is regrettable that the Gardaí are required to intervene during protests relating to the project. However it is their duty to uphold the law.

Q: As a result of concerns expressed by members of the local community, you have agreed to limit the pressure in the onshore pipeline to a maximum of 144 bar, but it still has a design pressure of more than twice that (345 bar) - can you guarantee that it will never operate at the design capacity?

The onshore pipeline now has a design pressure of 144 bar.  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.  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.

In response to this, a Landfall Valve Installation has been incorporated into the design, which automatically shuts off the pressure from offshore in the event that the pressure in the onshore pipeline should rise towards 144 bar.

Corrib Onshore Pipeline: Enhancing Safety brochure

What consents are in place for the Corrib Gas Project?

As with many major infrastructural projects, the Corrib field development is governed by numerous and complex consents.

In 2001 Enterprise Energy Ireland Ltd submitted four applications for the Corrib Gas Field Development.

These applications were:

  • An application to Mayo County Council in April 2001 for planning permission for the Bellanaboy Bridge gas terminal.  This application was accompanied by the Bellanaboy Bridge Terminal, Environmental Impact Statement, April 2001.
  • A Plan of Development in November 2001 under the Petroleum and Other Minerals Act (1960). This application was accompanied by an EIS which consisted of:

    - Corrib Natural Gas Field Development, Bellanaboy Bridge Terminal, Environmental Impact Statement, April 2001; and

    - Corrib Natural Gas Field Development, (Offshore Field to Terminal), Environmental Impact Statement, October 2001.  This EIS included all aspects of the offshore development including the seabed installation and offshore gas pipeline and covered the Corrib onshore gas pipeline from the landfall to the terminal.
  • An application in November 2001 to construct the Corrib gas pipeline from the Corrib Field to the Terminal (under the Gas Act, 1976 as amended) : and
  • An application in November 2001 for a Foreshore Licence for all elements of the Corrib pipeline lying between the High Water Mark and the 12-mile territorial limit.

An Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) was submitted as part of our statutory applications for the onshore and offshore sections of the Corrib Gas Pipeline as well as the terminal at Bellanaboy Bridge. The EIS can be viewed here:

Offshore (Field to Terminal) EIS

Onshore Pipeline EIS

Bellanaboy Bridge Gas Terminal EIS

The (then) Department of Marine and Natural Resources, carried out the environmental impact assessment process in accordance with the requirements of the EU EIA Directive. The Marine Licence Vetting Committee was appointed by the Minister to examine the EIS for each of these applications.  This meant that the entire project was subject to the environmental impact assessment process.

The Plan of Development for the whole Corrib Gas Field Development was approved and the associated statutory consents for the Corrib gas pipeline were obtained in April and May of 2002.  Planning permission for the Bellanaboy Bridge Gas Terminal was granted in October 2004.

These consents were granted following due process, which included Environmental Impact Assessment and public consultation. Due to, among other factors, the suspension of the project in 2005 to allow for dialogue and subsequently modification to the onshore pipeline route, the offshore works were not carried out at that time.

Legislation introduced in 2006 (Strategic Infrastructure Act) meant that in addition to seeking new permissions to vary the onshore pipeline route under the legislation referred to above, SEPIL was also required to submit an application under the Strategic Infrastructure Act to An Bord Pleanála, which it did in February 2009.

The new applications have no impact on the existing consents, which are valid. Before commencing the offshore activities in 2009 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 approved the Environmental Management Plan submitted for the 2009 offshore pipelay which is going ahead under the 2002 consents. The National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government have reviewed and approved the construction method statements for the works.

The conditions of the Pipeline Consent and the Plan of Development approval (2002) require SEPIL to obtain additional phased consents to install and commission the pipeline in accordance with procedures outlined in the Rules and Procedures Manual for Offshore Petroleum Production as published by the Petroleum Affairs Division of the DCENR.

Consents phases - further information and description.

Information regarding the consents governing the Corrib Gas Project is also available on the DCENR website