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'We were given guarantees': Minister calls for investigation after odourless gas enters public supply

Michael Ring said that he was “extremely concerned” over how the odourless gas managed to enter the wider network.

Updated at 11am

A GOVERNMENT MINISTER has called for an investigation into how odourless gas from the Corrib gas field made it into the general supply.

Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring said that he was “extremely concerned” over how the odourless gas managed to enter the wider network.

“I am aware that the EPA is engaged with Gas Networks Ireland and the priority is that this situation is resolved safely and with minimal inconvenience to customers,” he said.

“However, we also need answers on how this was allowed to happen and we need them without delay.

“We were given guarantees that this type of thing couldn’t happen. Companies that sell potentially dangerous energy products to our consumers have an obligation to ensure that there is no risk to the customer.

The fact that this has not happened is of the utmost concern.

Ring – who is a local TD in the area – was commenting after odourless made into the network due to a technical breach at the Corrib gas processing plant.

The Corrib gas plant in north Mayo was flaring up overnight as engineers worked to remove the odourless gas from the supply.

Customers in Galway and Mayo have been advised to turn off their gas supply for up to 72 hours while Gas Networks Ireland works to remove the odourless gas from the supply.

Gas is naturally odourless but a smell is added for safety purposes so people can detect it in the event of a leak.

Customers in Galway, Tuam, Headford, Ballinrobe, Claremorris, Castlebar, Westport, Crossmolina and Ballina are affected by the notice.

RTÉ News reports that the odourless issue is down to a technical breach at the Corrib gas processing plant.

Natural gas from the offshore Corrib field is piped onshore where it is refined at a processing plant at Bellanaboy before entering the general network.

But a technical issue at the plant – which is operated by fuel giant Shell – has led to the odour not being added.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland Eoin Wilson – network safety officer with Gas Networks Ireland – said that officials were first notified early yesterday morning that there may have been an issue with the service.

He said safety officers analysed the situation and once they had identified that some odourless gas had entered the network they began measures to notify customers.

Wilson said he was “absolutely” satisfied with the time it took for customers to be notified.

“The risk [to customers] is very, very low,” he said, adding that a team was working around the clock and he hoped that the gas service would be returned to normal by Sunday afternoon.

Flaring

The Corrib gas plant flared throughout the night as the odourless gas was pumped back to the processing plant and burnt off.

Locals in the area have been complaining at the sight and the noise of the flaring,

The Corrib gas project met with strong local resistance when it began.

Locals in the area cited safety and environmental concerns with the project and large-scale and multiple demonstrations were regularly held.

One of the main protest groups Shell to Sea strongly criticised Shell following the technical breach.

In a statement, Shell E&P Ireland (SEPIL) said that work was ongoing to the remove the odourless gas from the network.

“Flaring is expected to continue today at the Bellanaboy Bridge Gas Terminal to remove the gas in a safe and controlled manner,” a spokesperson said.

SEPIL will continue to update local residents. SEPIL regrets any inconvenience caused by this operational incident.

The spokesperson said that all operations at the Bellanaboy Bridge Gas Terminal continued as normal and an investigation had been launched into the incident.

An internal investigation has commenced and SEPIL is working with the necessary authorities and GNI to resolve this issue as soon as possible.

Read: Gas users in Galway and Mayo told to turn off supply for up to 72 hours

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