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Certain towns unviable for gas

Certain towns unviable for connection

Claire Egan

Bord Gáis have estimated that it would run up a debt of at least €20 million if it piped gas into the Mayo towns left out of last week’s list of areas planned for connection.
Five Mayo towns have been deemed economically non-viable in a report commissioned by the company. Ballinrobe, Belmullet, Kiltimagh, Foxford and Swinford were found to have failed to fulfil the criteria for connection to the national gas network.
The report, commissioned by the State gas board and carried out by BGE Networks, conducted a comprehensive review of towns currently being considered for connection to the national gas network. Even allowing for the exclusion of these towns, the inclusion of towns in Mayo and Galway have been found to be just about economically viable.
Ballinrobe, the largest town in south Mayo and 17.5km from the Corrib Gas Transmission line was reported as proving too costly to connect to the gas line.
The town, if connected, would have involved the same debt to the company as Ballina and Crossmolina, presented with a deficit of €3.12 million. Both north Mayo towns are regarded as viable for connection.
Belmullet, which lies 17km from the pipeline and whose connection would be the proposed Bellanboy terminal site, was not regarded for connection to the gas line. Its connection would involve a debt of almost €7 million to the gas company.
Kiltimagh, Foxford and Swinford were grouped together and also failed to pass as economically viable, despite a proposed gas line routed through Bohola. If considered separately, the combined total deficit of all three schemes stands at €16 million. Even when grouped, the company estimated that the it would lose almost €8 million.
Castlebar, Westport, Claremorris, have been found to be economic on a stand alone basis, this despite the fact that Claremorris also has a deficit of €0.73 million. Westport is only barely viable showing a financial connection surplus of €0.19. Castlebar is the only town, proposed for connection, which shows a significant financial connection surplus of €5.37 million.
Ballyhaunis and Knock have been grouped together, and present a deficit of €1.16 million  as have Ballina and Crossmolina. All towns however, according to the report present favourably for connection.  Ballyhaunis and Knock will not be connected until Claremorris is connected.
Of the seven towns listed as economically viable, only two present a financial connection surplus.
The Galway towns of Tuam and Headford, are included in the report as viable towns for connection to the gas line, despite presenting financial connection deficits. Craughwell, while having a significantly smaller projected population growth, in comparison to Ballinrobe has fulfilled the report’s economic criteria. Its industrial base will only increase by one to five by 2017.
The total capital expenditure involved in bringing gas to these towns will be approximately €40m. The pipeline from Bellanaboy to County Galway has been complete and all going to plan the company’s chief executive believes gas will be flowing by next year.
“Bord Gáis will now develop a detailed construction programme for these network extensions and we expect to have gas in the first of these towns before the end of 2007. The remainder of the towns would then receive gas during 2008”, said Gerry Walsh, Chief Executive, Bord Gáis.
However connection will depend on the location of industry in some towns. The principal objective of the study was to determine the economic viability of connecting towns to the network, in accordance with the Network Connection Policy.
An estimate of each town’s potential gas demand was established. The impact of forecasted population growth and the resultant rise  in industrial and commercial activities were also factored into the report. The infrastructure necessary to meet demand and a subsequent cost benefit analysis was also undertaken in the case of each town.
Huge disappointment was expressed in Belmullet at the town not being listed for connection. If wayleaves are gained by An Bord Gáis, Shell may yet be persuaded to run a pipeline from Bellanaboy to Belmullet it is believed.