During 2013, the Corrib gas pipeline was successfully installed under the Leenamore stream, which feeds into the tidal estuary of Sruwaddacon Bay. The work was carried out during the summer season to ensure the disturbance to the small river was minimised.
The success of this estuary crossing, from an environmental perspective, was down to detailed analysis and planning. It involved careful removal and storage of habitat such as cobbles, benthic material and saltmarsh. The removal and storage of saltmarsh had not been undertaken in this fashion previously.
Consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (then Dúchas) on the environmental aspects of the Corrib project began more than a decade ago.
Shell Ireland gave a commitment to reinstate the area affected by construction for the benefit of the natural habitats and wildlife. To fulfil this commitment and to minimise the impact on biodiversity, Shell’s team of environmental specialists, in collaboration with several contractors, developed innovative construction methodologies, suitable for working in wetlands and peatlands in Special Areas of Conservations and Special Protection Areas.
Extensive ecological surveys were undertaken, which provided information on the faunal presence and usage. Likewise, detailed baseline information was available on the habitats, including the vegetation structure, through which the pipeline was routed.
Shell’s environmental team started working together on the Corrib project 15 years ago. Today the team based in Mayo, is supported by external ecological specialists, including botanists, ornithologists and faunal specialists.
Biodiversity action plan
In 2014, the team published the Corrib Biodiversity Action plan 2013-2018. The plan was developed in accordance with the national strategy on biodiversity and that of the oil and gas industry.
It is also in line with Shell’s corporate policy on biodiversity for activities in sensitive areas.
In a case study conducted for the Shell Group in early 2011, the Cambridge based Biodiversity Consultants reviewed the Corrib project and concluded that the Corrib project would cause ‘No Net Loss’ to biodiversity.
For the Corrib team, this remains the long term objective. With good stewardship and continued adherence to the principles and programmes set out in the Corrib Biodiversity Action Plan, Shell Ireland hopes to be able to document a net positive impact on biodiversity by 2020.
The Corrib project, which has been the country’s most significant energy infrastructure development of the past decade, is preparing to produce First Gas from the Corrib field in the coming months.