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.

RPS website containing Community Update brochures as distributed locally throughout the rerouting process

Revised route map