LAST WEEK’S announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency of its decision to grant a licence to Shell E&P Ireland Limited for the gas refinery facilities at Bellanaboy has focused the spotlight once again on the north Mayo gas saga.
The preliminary decision by the environmental body to grant an Integrated Pollution Prevention Control Licence gives a potential green light to the €200 million facility and was welcomed by Shell and Corrib Gas Partners, which includes Statoil, Marathon and the Pro Gas Mayo Group. However, the proposed licence contains more than 85 individual conditions relating to the environmental management, operation, control and monitoring of the planned refinery.
Furthermore, there is a 28-day public consultation period during which objections or requests for oral hearings can be lodged with the EPA. It is expected that Shell to Sea will submit a request for an oral hearing.
The spokesperson for Shell E&P Ireland Limited, Mr John Egan, welcomed the decision of the EPA and re-affirmed Shell’s commitment to ‘build and operate a world-class facility at Bellanboy in partnership with the local community’ while also stating that ‘all decisions around the Corrib Gas project are taken with due concern for the protection of the environment’.
However, Dr Mark Garavan, spokesperson for Shell to Sea, said that the remit of the EPA is far too narrow, focusing only on ‘pollution emissions’ and not taking any account of the total effects of the whole project on the north Mayo area.
“One of our concerns is for Carrowmore Lake, which is located a short distance from the Bellanboy site. Furthermore, the EPA does not take into account the total effect of the proposed Shell development, which includes the actual building itself, the operational aspects of the refinery and, finally, the pipeline itself. Our primary concern is for the cumulative effect of this whole project on the area and we will continue to campaign on this issue,” said Dr Garavan.
The announcement by the EPA paves the way potentially for Shell to continue to develop its facility and will provide for the processing of 9.9 million cubic metres of natural gas per day that will be exported to the Bord Gáis Éireann distribution network.
The EPA said it is satisfied that the emissions from the refinery, ‘when operated in accordance with the conditions of the proposed licence, will not adversely affect human health or the environment and will meet all relevant national and EU standards’.
Meanwhile, Mayo County Council’s Project Monitoring Committee for the gas terminal at Bellanaboy held its first meeting of 2007 on January 17. The meeting dealt with updates on development work at the terminal site, environmental issues and community issues and heard submissions from Mayo County Council Community and Enterprise section, Bord na Mona and the North West Regional Fisheries Board.
It was proposed that an additional local representative be elected to the committee and a presentation was made on the proposed method of election. It will be open to participation by all community groups and is expected to be held before the next PMC meeting.