NATURAL gas began to flow at Shell’s Corrib gas project in Ireland on December 30, 2015, a partner in the project has announced.

Vermillion Energy said production levels at Corrib were expected to rise over a period of about six months to a peak rate estimated at 58 million cubic feet per day (mmcf/d) net to Vermilion.

Vermilion chief executive Lorenzo Donadeo said first gas is a significant milestone for the company which is becoming a dominant intermediate producer in Europe.

“Corrib will be a significant contributor to both our 2016 and 2017 production growth and generate meaningful free cash flow for the company.”

“Corrib strengthens our focus on Europe and provides us with operational momentum in an area where we are becoming a dominant intermediate producer.”

“Moreover, it is good news for Ireland. Corrib will improve the security of natural gas supply in the Irish market and will bring long-term benefits and employment to the Irish economy.”

Corrib production is priced in reference to the National Balancing Point (NBP) in the United Kingdom and will increase Vermilion’s exposure to advantageously-priced European natural gas production, the company said.

Vermilion anticipates that European-based natural gas will represent approximately 30 per cent of its 2016 production volumes.

Corrib is a natural gas field located about 83 kilometres off the northwest coast of Ireland.

The field is believed to contain about 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.

Operated by Shell E&P Ireland, the Corrib project is a joint venture between Shell E&P Ireland (45%), Statoil Exploration Ireland (36.5%), and Vermilion Energy Ireland (18.5%).

More than 6,000 people have worked on the development of the Corrib field.

Six production wells are available in the field, which is located in water depths of about 350 metres.

At peak production, Vermilion said the Corrib field has the potential to meet up to 60% of Ireland’s gas needs.

Natural gas is transported from the field through a 20 inch pipeline to the Bellanaboy Bridge gas terminal in northwest Mayo where it is processed before being transferred to the Gas Networks Ireland national gas grid for distribution to Irish gas consumers.