Thursday, 24 October 2013

Questions (26)

Richard Boyd Barrett


26. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if it is true that a tunnelling expert sent by the Department to investigate claims by residents around Srahwaddaconn Bay that there was bubbling in the Srahwaddaconn estuary over the area where Shell was tunnelling as part of the Corrib project and that an expert was denied access to the tunnel by Shell where weeks later a Shell employee died when a compressed air pipe attached to the tunnel boring machine exploded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45047/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

A representative for Environ, the independent consultants appointed by my Department to assist in the oversight and monitoring of the conditions of consent to construct the Corrib Gas pipeline, conducted a site visit during the 2nd and 3rd of July this year. The purpose of this brief visit to the Corrib Project, which did not require access to the tunnel, was to:

a) Review the points raised during the previous visit;

b) Assess the possible reasons behind the “depressions” in Sruwadaccon Bay that had been recently reported; and

c) Examine what lessons have been learned from these incidents.

The Environ report of the visit, dated 8th July, 2013 confirmed that there was an opportunity to view the site, but due to the need to be certified for confined space work, there was no opportunity to visit the tunnel. The confined space course is of two day duration and as the Environ representative had not completed such safety training it was not possible on safety grounds for him to enter the tunnel.

It should be noted that matters with regard to workplace health and safety are a matter for the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and are beyond the remit of Environ.

Tunnelling works are currently suspended due to the recent fatal incident referenced by the Deputy. Investigations into the incident are being carried out by both the HSA and by Shell E&P Ireland Ltd itself. It should be noted that Shell is not under investigation, the employer in this instance is the German tunnelling company Herrenknect which is subcontracted to companies Wayss & Freytag and BAM Civil who are responsible for tunnelling operations.