Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Shell Corrib Project comes on stream.

Late last month I was pleased to join fellow EGA Board Member Brendan Butler at the opening of the Corrib Gas Project in Erris, County Mayo by Partners Shell Statoil and Vermillion. Brendan is the Shell Project Director charged with completion and commissioning of the project.  The official opening was performed by Minister of State for Natural Resources, Mr Joe McHugh TD who described the Erris Gas Project as “an incredible story”.

The control room of Shell's gas terminal at Bellenaboy are control room operator Tom Bond,
Minister of State JoeMcHugh and Shell E&P Ireland Managing Director, Ronan Deasy.

The Shell Corrib project was certainly the largest and most expensive and perhaps the most controversial project in the history of the Irish State. The project was commenced not by Shell but by another company Enterprise Oil back in 1993 when they were awarded an exploration licence off the west Irish Coast. In 1996 Enterprise discovered the Corrib Gas Field some 83km off the Mayo coast approx. 3,000 metres under the seabed and in waters some 350 metres deep.
Enterprise initially sought to develop the field themselves and applied for planning permission which was consented in 2002. Later that year, Shell acquired Enterprise Oil including the Corrib Field. By then significant local objections had been generated which Shell then inherited.  Construction commenced in 2005 but the local objections became more intense culminating in the jailing of local landowners/residents for being in contempt of a court order not to obstruct the project.  Following this impasse and the release of the local people, a mediator Peter Cassells former trade union leader was appointed by the then Minister. The Mediator's Report was published in 2006 recommending 'that Shell modify the route of the pipeline in the vicinity of Rossport to address community concerns regarding proximity to housing'. The Mediator’s Report also supported an independent report on gas pressure safety and urged greater public involvement in pipeline rerouting.
Also in 2006, the Shell management in Ireland changed.  An Irish UCD engineer Terry Nolan working for Shell abroad returned to Ireland as Deputy Managing Director.  Terry went to live in Mayo and from there led a transformation of the project in local perception terms.  He subsequently became Shell MD in Ireland in 2008  until 2011 when he was succeeded by Michael Crothers who built on Terry's previous good work with the Erris community.  Michael was Canadian born of Irish parents - he was Managing Director from 2011 to early 2015 for most of the construction phase which had its own challenges.
Following a new round of public and EU procurement in late 2006, Shell appointed international energy and environment consultants RPS based in Ireland who were new to the Corrib Project to implement the Mediator's  recommendations regarding the 9km Onshore Pipeline. That included re-examining the pipeline routing south of Rossport, to move it further from local housing and reapply  for the planning consents along the new route. Our brief also included reconfiguration of local community engagement.
I led an RPS consultancy team to Mayo in Spring 2007 to take up the challenge given to us by Shell. We found in Erris some of the most beautiful landscapes in Ireland in the vicinity of the disputed project.  Conscious of the degree of local opposition, RPS completely reconfigured the local stakeholder engagement process setting up a local office in Belmullet staffed by community engagement experts supported by experienced gas engineers and scientists familiar with natural gas pipelines in Ireland and previously retained by Bord Gais.
Sruwaddacon Bay
RPS' previous track record for Bord Gais was to plan and manage the construction of the 350km Gas Pipeline to the West from Gormanston Co Meath to Goatisland in south Co Limerick via Craughwell Co Galway - the longest gas pipeline in the history of the state delivered on time and within budget in 2002/2003. That project involving 1300 landowners across 8 Irish counties had proceeded smoothly with minimum opposition or delay. It was initially planned in 1999/2000, consented in 2001 and constructed in 2002/2003.
Map of Ireland with Gas Pipeline to the West
RPS set up and managed a fresh community engagement process around the new route selection process involving very extensive local community engagement, even on the criteria to be used to chose the new route before route options were examined.  We held Open Days which were well attended, met with local residents and issued regular update newsletters on the rerouting and consultation process.  Following initial public consultation on a modified pipeline route, eight new corridor options were published in June 2007.   At the same time, Shell set up a local community investment fund to support local voluntary organisations and a Third Level Scholarship Programme.

 Public Consultation Open Day on routing process at Belmullet

A selected route and associated EIS was sent to An Bord Pleanala in February 2009 which doubled the distance to housing and halved the pipeline pressure. The Bord were not however satisfied and requested a route even further from housing up through Sruwaddacon Bay be considered. What became known as the tunnel route was then submitted to An Bord Pleanala in May 2010 and approved in early 2011 following a resumed oral hearing in September 2010.
All of these processes turned the project around and led to successful planning and regulatory approval for a revised optimum route in tunnel.  The tunnel was necessary as the Bay was designated an EU Special Area of Conservation and an EU Special Protected Birds Area.
Map of Onshore Pipeline
The planning permission for the tunnel was given by An Bord Pleanala in early 2011 and construction completed in 2014/15. Up to 1,200 people many of them from Mayo have worked on bringing Corrib to market as it officially opened in January 2016 and the development will sustain 175 jobs over the next 20 years when Corrib will supply up to 60% of our national gas needs.
PJ Rudden, Director RPS Group, Ronan Deasy, Managing Director of Shell Ireland and
Brendan Butler, Project Director Shell E&P Ireland
The technical, environmental and safety standards applied and insisted upon by Shell on this project were second to none in my experience of over 30 years on gas pipelines.  I was very proud to be part of the team effort with Shell to bring indigenous gas ashore from the Corrib Field for Ireland at a time when we previously imported 95% of our needs from the UK through two interconnectors from Scotland.
Also present at the official opening were the Cathaoirleach and Chief Executive of Mayo County Council. the Director of Planning, Economic and Community Development and both the Dutch and Canadian Ambassadors.

Mary Keaveney, Western Development Commission; Joanne Grehan, Director - Planning, Economic & Community Development, Mayo County Council; Kevin Vickers, Canadian Ambassador to Ireland; Michael Holmes, Cathaoirleach, Mayo County Council; PJ Rudden, Director RPS; and Peter Hynes, Chief Executive, Mayo County Council.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Tackling Ireland's Flooding Challenge

December 2015 and January 2016 brought many tragic tales of flooding especially along the River Shannon catchment and in southern towns across Kerry, Cork, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Carlow and Wexford. In early January there were some 260 homes flooded and as many more homes at risk with flood levels in some rivers at record levels.

Flooding in River Shannon, Athlone
Apart from the devastation caused to homes there has been major disruption to businesses, farms, getting to work and schools. Flood events bring serious human distress, property and financial costs to towns and rural communities. Flooding seriously disrupts power, water, sewerage and other utility systems causing both outages and pollution.
The EGA Spring Lectures and Panel Discussion in April 2016 (final date to be confirmed) will hear from both national and international experts on Tackling Ireland's Flooding Challenge led by Professor Michael Bruen of the UCD Dooge Centre for Water Resources Research. Professor Bruen is a leading international researcher in modelling water resources and environmental engineering including the effects of climate change.

Flooding in Cork City
Civil engineering solutions can provide flood relief in major towns as shown in Dublin, Waterford, Kilkenny, Clonmel and Fermoy but rural areas are very difficult to protect in spatial terms. The problem has been exacerbated by bad planning in building on river basin flood plains. Flood warning systems based on reliable weather and tidal forecasting can also assist. It is significant that all town centres with properly planned engineering defence systems were successful this year in the face of unprecedented flooding.

Flood defence glass wall in Waterford
We will plan this event in close cooperation with the UCD School of Civil Structural and Environmental Engineering, the Office of Public Works , Met √Čireann and relevant local authorities.


UCD Belfield Campus
The first EGA Board Meeting of 2016 discussed this issue together with a planned UCD Summer Festival on Campus on June 18th next. This new UCD event will encourage our Alumni to return to college for a Family Picnic of Food Tours and Entertainment. In fact it will be a 'pan university picnic' under cover - a greatly expanded version of the Engineers Picnic as part of The Gathering 2013.

UCD Engineers Picnic, Rose Garden 2013
Each College in UCD will plan their own event coordinated across college by the Alumni Association. More about this exciting new event in future blogs.
Our meeting also heard from our 3 Subcommittees on Corporate Membership, Gender Balance and Social Media. We also discussed arrangements for the next round of Final Year Mock Interviews for Internship positions which are now an essential element of the new 5 year Masters Programme.
We heard from EGA Secretary Dr Vincent Hargaden on the next edition of the Engineers Newsletter to be published later this month.
Fionnuala McGowan, Past Head of Administration for
UCD Engineering Graduates Association

Clare Ryan, Administrator for
UCD Engineering Graduates Association

Finally we recorded grateful thanks to our departing Administrative Officer and Board Member Fionnuala McGowan. We also welcomed her replacement Clare Ryan from the School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science. Fionnuala has served the EGA since 2007 and tributes were paid to her for her efficiency, dedication and endless good humour. I will write to her shortly on behalf of the Board recording our sincere thanks. We welcome Clare to her new role and to the Board and look forward to working with her.