I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 29 together.
The Deputy will be aware from my replies to previous Parliamentary Questions raised by him on this issue that this is an operational matter for Bord Gáis Éireann (BGE). The company operates in accordance with the safety framework established by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which has statutory responsibility for gas safety. In addition, in accordance with section 39A of the Gas Act 1976, as amended, the CER has responsibility for the assessment of applications to construct transmission pipelines. I have no function in these operational matters.
BGE owns and operates the national transmission and distribution gas network. BGE and the CER have advised that all transmission pipelines, including those in residential areas, are designed, constructed, tested, operated and maintained in accordance with Irish Standard 328:2003, Code of Practice for Gas Transmission Pipelines and Pipeline Installations.
I understand that pipelines in suburban and urban areas are constructed using high grade steel pipe and lain in accordance with Irish Standard 323:2003. In order to ensure the safety of the pipeline a desired minimum level of cover of 1.2 metres is specified throughout. However, it is recognised in the standard that this will not be possible in some circumstances over short sections, for example where existing major services are located and cannot be moved. In these cases, additional pipeline protection measures are specified, such as concrete impact protection, are put in place in accordance with Irish Standard 328:2003. All transmission pipelines must be installed fully in accordance with the requirements of the standard with no breaches or lapses of the standard considered acceptable. Once commissioned, a scheduled routine maintenance and inspection programme is applied to all pipelines.
Following completion of construction, the consent of the CER is required before BGE may operate the pipeline. This consent is subject to a review of all relevant data and test records by a CER commissioned independent consultant. Safety is BGE’s top priority and the company is committed to ongoing development and maintenance of the gas networks and systems to ensure safety and to deliver continuous safety improvement and performance. I have every confidence in BGE’s priority commitment to safety.
I understand the Deputy is referring to the Santry to East Wall gas pipeline. In regard to that pipeline, the consent of the CER to BGE’s undertaking of these works was informed by the advice of independent consultants engaged by the CER. This advice dealt with matters such as the pipeline’s technical compliance with design requirements, including minimum depth specifications, and compliance with the relevant Irish Standard 328:2003.