For the past 13 years the people of Mayo has fought for their right to live without a ultra-high pressure raw gas pipeline through the small coastal town, and the conflict is further from a solution than ever
The current economic crisis has prompted people to ask whether mineral sources could offer a new source of wealth, especially now that the global supply of oil and gas has become less over the last couple of years.
Because of this there is also a growing awareness that Ireland´s licensing terms are highly unusual, putting Ireland at the bottom of the international league table in terms of the State´s share of the revenue from the sale of oil and gas- resources that in fact belong, according to the constitution , to the State.
Too dangerous to pump raw gas
One of the major stories that is a great illustration of this is the now 13 year old struggle over the Corrib Gas Project in Mayo, Ireland. The Gas Field is a reserve of natural gas situated 80 km off the west coast of County Mayo containing at least 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Instead of processing the gas at sea, the consortium intends to pump high pressure raw gas to an unprecedented inland refinery where it would be processed for sale and consumption.
William Hederman is a freelance journalist and photographer, but also a campaigner in a voluntary capacity. He has taken a special interest in the Corrib Gas Project, a journey that for him started 8 long years ago.
” This project has caused huge problems to the local area, and is in addition of being a big threat to the safety and environment, also becoming a militarization of a rural area”, says Hederman.
(Here is a preview of the documentary “The Pipe”, a film about the conflict surrounding the Corrib field)
Have to buy domestic gas to international prices
He refers to the presence of an increasing number of Gardaí and roadblocks in Mayo, which in turn has caused major conflicts between State and inhabitants. The last arrest was as resent as two weeks ago. After a week and a half in custody, Shell to Sea activist Izzy Ní Graidim left Mountjoy prison on February 23.
” Talking to Izzy later on we learnt that the prison guards wanted her out to avoid the protest outside the prison! We were speculating that with the Gardaí working to rule at the moment the prison might have been worried about being blocked in for the day. Either way, more power to protest, or even to the threat of it“, wrote campaigners on their own Shell to Sea webiste
Even though the project has been delayed by the campaigners, the refinery is now nearly finished inform´s Shell E&P Ireland Limited.
” But is it not a good thing that Irish consumers finally will be able to buy cheaper domestic gas?”
“Well that is one of the misconceptions amongst most people here. The fact is that Shell will sell the gas back to the Irish Bord Gáis at a full international price”, says Hederman.
This means that the consumers will pay exactly the same price as the gas they get from Norway and UK, even though this is suppose to be Ireland´s own gas
“It´s kind of crazy actually”, says Hederman and shakes his head.
The great oil and gas give away is the name given to the way the government handle their natural resources.
“What we mean by this is that The State transfers ownership control to private companies, and the only way Ireland extract revenue is through corporation tax, which in turn is very low (25 per cent)”, says Hederman.
When you look at Norway the reality is totally different, as this video illustrate:
Here are some crucial myths and fact about Irish oil and gas:
MYTH: ” Ireland´s take can be increased later, once more oil and gas is found”
FACT: ” Licenses already offered by the Government can be changed, but only with considerable political will and some risk. In reality, future Irish governments will be extremely reluctant to do so. Unless the terms are changed now, all or most of the areas likely to contain oil and gas will have been licensed exclusively to companies decades to come.
MYTH: The Corrib Gas field will supply 60 per cent of Ireland´s gas needs for 20 years
FACT: If Shell´s claims are accurate, a field life of 20 years would see Corrib Supplying up to 15 per cent of Ireland´s gas needs over its lifetime.
MYTH: Further oil and gas discoveries off the Irish coast will lead to a thriving industry, with jobs, infrastructure, investment and a secure domestic supply of gas and oil.
FACT: Ireland´s licensing terms do not stipulate that oil or gas found in Irish waters or in Ireland must be supplied to the Irish market. In other words, they will transfer the oil to tankers at the rig and ship it to a refinery overseas.