Gas from the Corrib field started flowing for the first time on December 30th after two decades of battles with locals and environmentalists.
Discovered in 1996, the field is 83 kilometers off the shore of county Mayo. It is connected to a new refinery terminal built in Bellanaboy by a pipeline.
“The sky over Broadhaven Bay was pure orange and it seemed as if thick smoke was billowing over the hill behind me,” resident Diane Taylor told the Irish Times newspaper. “It looked like the hill over by Pollathomas was on fire.”
On New Year’s Eve, Shell reportedly had warned residents via a text alert to expect intermittent flaring – a way in which excess gas is burned off.
The company said the practice is “part of normal start-up activities”.
— Irish Coastal Life (@Irishmarinelife) December 31, 2015
A video showing Shell’s PR man, John Egan, describing the flaring as a “fantastic way to spend New Year’s Eve” was removed from YouTube.
Triumphant Happy New Year message from Shell public relations. Have they won? https://t.co/Mvb1LmkbQA
— The Pipe (@thepipethefilm) January 1, 2016
Last video I put up below has been ‘removed by the user’ – and it was Shell communications own video of John Egan… https://t.co/MW3VSFqEmJ
— The Pipe (@thepipethefilm) January 2, 2016
Up until now, locals had only seen test flaring. Judging by the reaction, they are hoping flare stack activity won’t become the norm.
Taylor said the incident was “frightening,” as she doesn’t normally see flaring from her home.
“It was about 8:15pm, and I opened the door and could smell smoke which would burn your nose, so I came right back inside,” she added.
Farmer Gerry Bourke, who lives one kilometer from the Ballinaboy site, said there was “nothing normal” about the sounds and flames being emitted from the plant.
The loud noises he describes “like a supersonic boom” can be heard in footage of the flaring.
To date, €3.6 billion have been spent developing the Corrib gas field, even though Shell admits it will only have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years.
Shell’s project has faced years of protests, led by the Shell to Sea campaign.
The costs of private security and gardaí (police) overtime helped push the project over budget, which reduces how much taxpayers will make from the pipeline.
In 2005, five men dubbed the Rossport Five were jailed for 94 days after they failed to allow Shell access to their lands. Shell later apologized for its part in having the men sent to prison.
In 2011, five garda members were recorded joking about “raping” and “deporting” two female protesters they had just arrested. In the end, just one of the gardaí was recommended for discipline and none were fired or charged with a crime for what was dubbed the “rape tape”.