Shell puts controversial Corrib pipeline on hold

Energy giant Shell has agreed to hold off development of an Irish gas pipeline while it tries to woo the vehemently-opposed communities living alongside the proposed line.

Plans for the Corrib pipeline, which would tap into huge natural gas reserves off the coast of County Mayo, have been dogged by controversy since they were first announced.

The pipeline would carry raw gas to be processed at an inland facility.

But opponents cite health and safety fears, claiming the volatile gas could easily be processed offshore in a shallow-water facility.

The proposed pipe must cross five and a half miles of land but its progress has been fiercely resisted by land owners who have refused to recognise compulsory purchase orders issued by the authorities.

The campaign against the multinational’s plans has seen the landowners and protests in and out of court, as well as numerous demonstrations.

Shell’s plans have run into potentially embarrassing obstacles on more than one occasion, such as when it came to light that the ‘independent’ consultancy commissioned to analyse the safety of the pipeline was part-owned by the company.

Last month the company was ordered to take apart almost 2 miles of pipe that had been welded together without formal ministerial consent.

The company’s announcement on August 4 that it will suspend work to allow more time for dialogue should not be interpreted as admission of defeat, however, as it makes no promise of compromise and states Shell is ‘confident that the rescheduling of the offshore pipeline will not materially affect the project’s completion schedule.

The pipeline is expected to be operational in 2007.

By Sam Bond

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