Royal Dutch Shell and partners have commenced extraction of natural gas from the Corrib field offshore Ireland, overcoming a decade of project delays.

The gas field is located 83km off Ireland’s northwest coast, in water depths of almost 350m. It lies about 3,000m below the seabed and is expected to produce around 260 million standard cubic feet per day (MMscf/d) of gas at peak annual production.

Corrib was discovered by Enterprise Oil in 1996, and was acquired by Shell in 2002. Shell also took over the operatorship of the project and its development began in 2004.

"The project has created many local jobs in the development phase."

The company’s plans to construct an onshore pipeline to transport gas from the field to a terminal to be built at Bellanaboy in County Mayo attracted local opposition over concerns of the pipeline safety, as well as its effects on the environment.

Due to these reasons, changes were made to the pipeline’s path, increasing the project’s costs and compelled delays.

Shell upstream international director Andy Brown said: "Today’s announcement is a positive step for our gas portfolio.

"It is also good news for Ireland, as the provision of Corrib gas improves security of supply for the Irish energy market."

Shell E&P Ireland is the operator of the Corrib project, and holds a 45% participating interest. Remaining partners are Statoil Exploration Ireland (36.5%) and Vermilion Energy Ireland (18.5%).

Six wells have been drilled at the field and gas has been transported using a 20in pipeline to the Bellanaboy Bridge gas terminal.

Prior to transferring the gas into the Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) network, it is processed at Bellanaboy.

Statoil development and production activities in the UK and Ireland senior vice-president Tove Stuhr Sjøblom said: "There have been several challenges for the operator and its partners to overcome on the road to this important milestone.

"The project has created many local jobs in the development phase, and we are confident that the project will also contribute positively locally and nationally in the operational phase in terms of value creation and energy security."

Corrib, which has the potential to meet up to 60% of Ireland’s gas needs, will sustain 175 long-term jobs for the next 15 to 20 years.

Image: The Corrib gas field is located 83km off Ireland’s northwest coast in water depths of almost 350m. Photo: courtesy of Shell