A fault at the controversial Corrib gas terminal operated by Shell in County Mayo has terrified local residents who do not believe a “burning off” process at the plant is safe.
Flaring or burning off of flammable gas is activated if there is a pressure rise in the plant, or a fire or gas release.
What was initially described as “flaring event” at the Corrib gas refinery started early Thursday morning and continued for 48 hours. A plume of flames, which could be seen up to 50 miles away, was accompanied locally by the thunderous noise of escaping gas.
A text alert sent by Shell to residents in the Ballinaboy area said that the flames were the result of a “technical issue relating to the addition of odourant to the gas stream”.
Local activist Mary Corduff said there had been a distinct smell of gas in the vicinity of the refinery for three days. She said she had notified the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Shell claimed in 2015 that a similar fire was “exceptional”, and promised to “take all measures” to minimise further occurrences. The company ultimately pleaded guilty in September 2016 to breaching two parts of its industrial emissions licence.
Shell to Sea, the environmental campaign group which maintained a protest camp for years against the onshore gas pipeline and refinery, said mainstream media had silenced local people’s concerns.
Spokesperson Terence Conway said: “During construction of the Corrib project, Shell were a clear danger to lives in this area, but now it is clear that they are a danger to lives further afield also. We have no confidence in the state to regulate or control Shell.”
Veteran campaigner Maura Harrington, who was jailed in 2009 in relation to protests against the plant, added: “Shell has brought their worst practice in Nigeria into the beautiful Barony of Erris. How dare they and how dare this state allow Shell to poison a pristine environment and the health of future generations; this cannot be spun as a spurious health and safety concern - it’s incompetent and negligent; it is our Place and our People who suffer the consequences while unaccountable, faceless functionaries reap their pensions”.