Why is Shell’s experimental pipeline in Mayo so dangerous?

When the inland gas refinery near Rossport was proposed in the late 1990s, many local people welcomed the project. But when they did some research, they quickly became extremely concerned. They discovered this was an experimental project; nothing like it had been tried anywhere in the world.

Raw, unprocessed gas would be carried at extremely high pressure, directly from under the sea-bed, through a pipeline in an unstable bog where landslides are common. The proposed pipeline for Rossport is nothing like the gas pipelines people live close to in other parts of Ireland:
• the pressure would be 144 bar, and possibly higher, compared to a maximum 5 bar in a domestic pipeline;
• the gas would still contain chemical impurities that corrode pipes and are highly explosive – these are removed at the refinery;
• it would not contain the odour that alerts residents to a leak – this is added at the refinery.

At the Bord Pleanála hearing in June 2009 into this onshore pipeline route, Shell consultants admitted that, in the event of a leak, “houses within 230 metres of the pipeline could burn spontaneously from heat radiation” and that “houses within 171m would be at risk if the gas pressure was at 144 bar” (Irish Times, 04/06/09), the reduced pressure level Shell was forced to retreat to by earlier protests. There are about 33 houses within this “kill zone”. Also, the pipeline would pass just 1.4 metres below fields and roads.

Waste water from the refinery would flow into Carrowmore Lake, the source of drinking water for 10,000 people in Erris.

Since 2000, local people have been demanding that the gas is processed at sea, before it reaches residential areas, as is standard practice worldwide. They have never objected to gas being piped ashore in the normal way.

This is the final version of a text I wrote for the Dublin Shell to Sea 'All the Facts' leaflet.  We are producing 120,000 of these so a whole lot of editing has been done be a team of people since my original draft.  If you want copies to distribute (this was produced Autumn 2009) details are on the All the Facts page.


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