By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS & JOHN ROBERTSON
Total is to use local stone for the new approach road to the forthcoming gas processing plant at Sullom Voe instead of importing it.
Local quarry owners despaired when the road builders, Irish construction company Roadbridge, started using stone shipped in from Norway rather than from Shetland quarries.
However, Total did pledge last month to start using local stone once an environmental assessment had been carried out.
This has now been done and the agreement to use Shetland stone is in place. No decision has yet been made about which quarry will be used and there is no date for the start of this work.
Imported stone has been used since construction started in April because of a planning condition which stated: “All materials . . . shall be imported into the site via the sea, landed close to the site and thereafter transported to the site via road transport.”
The news that local stone will at last be used was generally welcomed by Delting Community Council on Wednesday night, although chairman and SIC councillor Alastair Cooper said he wished the decision had been made earlier.
Shiploads of stone from across the North Sea have been arriving at Sullom Voe’s construction jetty for the last six weeks, at a price which quarry owners Garriock Brothers managing director George Garriock estimated to be double the cost of using local stone.
Garriocks had bought heavy crushing equipment costing £1 million, expecting to get the work. That equipment has never been to Shetland and is now on hire in Inverness. A £200,000 washing plant at Brindister, intended to make washed sand for pipe bedding, has never been installed, and Garriock employees were warned, and are still, under threat of possible lay-offs.
Yesterday Mr Garriock branded the whole business a “shambles”. He said: “Rumour has it that 60,000 tonnes of stone has [already] come from Norway. That’s money gone out the Shetland economy. It wouldn’t matter if they took it from us or any [other quarry]. It’s between £500,000 and £1 million gone.”
Mr Garriock said his company had asked the planning department to allow local stone to be used, even if a restriction of perhaps 1,000 tonnes a day was imposed to lessen road traffic, “but no-one would listen”.
He said a “blind eye” had been turned to other materials being moved by road – all Roadbridge’s heavy plant had come by road and diesel for it had been supplied by road tanker from Lerwick.
“Why did they not do a restriction across the board? Something’s seriously wrong.”
The imported stone, he said, is nothing that could not have been supplied locally. “It’s crushed stone, very normal material. We have thousands of tonnes in stock at all our quarries and could make thousands of tonnes a day as well. One thing the Old Rock has is plenty of rock – and we’re standing round tending sheep.”
Mr Garriock pointed out that he could have produced the material at, for instance, Sullom Mine, driven it to Scalloway and taken it by boat to Sullom Voe.
“That would have been acceptable. The double handling, loading and unloading [of Norwegian stone] is costing Total a fortune more.”
Yesterday Mr Garriock said that he had not been told that local stone was about to be used, but he gave the news a cautious welcome, saying it would lift the possibility of lay-offs.
Using local stone will mean 24 trucks going to the site and back every day, making 48 traffic movements. If Sullom Mine is used the trucks will pass Brae High School, and if a quarry south of Lerwick is used, Olnafirth Primary School in Voe will be affected.
Total and Roadbridge chiefs pledged at Wednesday’s meeting the 20-tonne and 26-tonne trucks would adhere to strict voluntary speed limits, lower than the statutory ones. Thus they would observe a 30mph in the 40mph limit north of Brae, and 20mph as they pass Olnafirth Primary School, although the area still has a 30mph limit.
Pupils from primary seven in the two schools will also be taken to see the trucks and be shown “how they are safe”, Total spokeswoman Rhonda Kelly said.
Company bosses have already met SIC infrastructure chief Gordon Greenhill to assure him that any damage done by the trucks would be paid for, Ms Kelly said.
Representatives from local businesses welcomed the developments, and Mr Cooper said: “They [Total and Roadbridge] have approached this from the right angle, addressing community concerns, it’s a pity it hadn’t been done sooner.”
Meanwhile Total’s deal with Shetland Islands Council to use land for its £500 million gas plant next to Sullom Voe is to be made public once the detail is finalised later this month.
Councillors heard from lawyers in private on Tuesday morning that the current negotiations for acquiring land for up to 70 years are nearing completion.
Although the broad principles were agreed by the council on 18th March much of the detail involved with health and safety and environmental protection has taken until now to finalise.
Work is already under way on the Total project at Sullom Voe which will see gas coming ashore from the Laggan-Tormore field from 2014. Potentially a host of other new gas discoveries could join into the pipeline later as Britain seeks to exploit its untapped west of Shetland resources.
Depute chief executive Hazel Sutherland told members the lease should be ready to be signed off quite soon and registered in the Registers of Scotland, which will make it available for scrutiny as a public document.
Convener Sandy Cluness has already said he expects the Shetland economy to benefit from income of around £200 million during the first 30 years of the gas plant and he said on Tuesday it could last 70 years or longer “as long as the gas comes ashore”.
Mr Cluness paid tribute to the council’s negotiating team which has met regularly over the past months. “Without their energy and expertise we wouldn’t have been able to move this deal along.”
The council wanted to recognise publicly the efforts of its team, he said, particularly head of finance Graham Johnston, head of economic development Neil Grant and the principal council contact Paul Wishart. Janet Barclay of the planning service was also praised for her hard work dealing with Total’s planning application.