Dáil Éireann - Volume 538 - 14 June, 2001

Written Answers. - Offshore Exploration.

37. Mr. McDowell asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the progress which has been made regarding his proposals to ensure that the west will benefit from the Corrib gas field; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17403/01]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Fahey): The development of the Corrib gas reservoir presents opportunities for the west in terms of short-term building and construction jobs and, most importantly, in bringing an energy corridor through areas of the west where there has hitherto been deficiencies in energy supply. The latter development holds the potential, along with the BGE ringmain to Galway, to upgrade the energy infrastructure of the west and north-west. The Government is anxious to deliver direct gas supply to as many towns and centres in the west and north-west where to date there has been no availability of gas. The Government is also anxious that the quality of electricity supply to the west and north-west is improved and sees the availability of natural gas in the region making a major contribution to that objective.

BGE is already committed to connecting the natural gas network to as many towns as can be reached within their commercial mandate. In addition to providing a gas supply to certain towns in the catchment area of the proposed pipeline and spur-line, I understand that BGE is examining the prospect of supplying gas to other centres of population in the north-west as part of a national study to determine centres that can be supplied with gas on an economic basis. When this assessment has been completed, a fuller picture as to the costs and viability of such extensions will emerge. The Government recently gave approval in principle for the construction of spur pipelines to the north-west of Ireland. The Government recognises that State funding will be required as BGE has a statutory obligation to [408] extend gas networks to new areas of supply on a commercial basis only.

My priority is to see the extension of the gas network and a new supply off the west coast used to accelerate economic development in the Border, midland and western region.