On June 7, 2017, Michael Crothers, spoke with the Ireland-Canada Centre for Commerce Calgary. Crothers was also the Managing Director of Shell E&P Ireland Limited (SEPIL) for over 3 years starting in 2011, during which he led the Corrib gas venture.
The Corrib gas project is one of the most significant engineering projects ever undertaken in Ireland. Located some 83 kilometres off the northwest coast of County Mayo, this medium sized gas field was developed as a subsea ‘tie-back’ facility, connected by a pipeline to an onshore processing terminal.
The Corrib Gas Partners are SEPIL (45% – Operator), Statoil Exploration (Ireland) Limited (36.5%) and Vermilion Energy (18.5%).
The Corrib onshore pipeline project became the centre of controversy in 2005 when a number of local people refused to allow SEPIL access to areas along the then permitted pipeline route in Rossport. Arising from legal proceedings taken by SEPIL, five local people were jailed by the High Court for contempt.
During this time work on the Bellanaboy terminal site was suspended. In an effort to resolve the standoff, the Government appointed international consultants, Advantica, to conduct an independent safety review of the onshore pipeline. Their report, published in May 2006, 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 and terminal”.
The Advantica Report also made a number of recommendations, including a recommendation limiting 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 (then) Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources appointed an independent mediator, who recommended that the route of the onshore section of the Corrib Gas Pipeline be modified to increase the distance between the pipeline and local houses. The Corrib Gas Partners accepted this recommendation and appointed consultants identify and develop a suitable modified route. An alternative route was identified which doubled the distance from housing. This permission included the construction of a 4.8 km tunnel under Sruwaddacon Bay and directed that a Community Gain Investment Fund be established to benefit the communities most impacted by the project.
Community support, which had been tentative following the jailings, grew as the benefits of local content became evident. Throughout the terminal construction phase close to 50% of the workforce, at any given time, was from Erris and Mayo. Other community benefits were delivered through the Corrib Natural Gas 3rd Level Scholarship Programme, the Local Grants Programme and the Erris Development Fund.
The Bellanaboy Bridge Gas Terminal began commissioning in late 2014 and came into operation at the end of December 2015. The plant is operating at its maximum capacity and during its first year of operation supplied 55% of Ireland’s gas requirement.
Shell has largely regained the trust of the community. Shell is now accepted as part of the business landscape in Mayo. The combined efforts of the plant who are focused on minimizing impacts of operational processes on our neighbours and the dedicated community liaison team, who continue to educate and build trust with community stakeholders, has resulted in minimal numbers of concerns raised, while an appropriately scaled Social Investment programme demonstrates Shell’s continued commitment to supporting local organisations and initiatives.
The presentation was very well received by the Ireland Canada Centre for Commerce, Calgary’s Members and Guests in attendance at the Westin Calgary. In appreciation for Mr. Crothers time, the ICCC will be making a donation to a charity of his choice.
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