Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte TD, has published a report on the future of Oil Refining in Ireland. The report, which was prepared by consultants Purvin & Gerts and Byrne O’Cleirigh, was commissioned “as a proactive measure, well in advance of the expiry of Whitegate’s refining obligation in 2016”.
When the Whitegate refinery and Bantry storage terminals were sold by the state in 2001, it was a condition of the sale that they must continue to be operated until at least 2016. The Government has now considered the findings of the report, entitled “Study of the Strategic Case for Oil Refining Requirements on the Island of Ireland”, and, according to Minister Rabbitte, has come to the conclusion that “the continued operation of the Whitegate refinery on a commercial basis is highly desirable.”
This decision has been made on the basis that the security of oil supply will continue to be of central importance to the Irish economy for the foreseeable future; in 2011 oil comprised 59 percent of total final energy consumption in Ireland. In addition, an operating refinery also adds value to the Irish economy and provides significant employment.
The Minister said: “The Government has agreed that my Department should liaise with the Irish oil industry and appropriate public bodies to determine available policy options that might facilitate the commercial future of refining in Ireland. I will revert to Government for further consideration of these options in due course”.
Considering the study was carried out at a time of ongoing rationalisation in the EU refining sector, the Minster said his Department will continue to participate in the debate on refining at EU and International Energy Agency (IEA) level.
Ireland imports all of its oil needs. Oil is imported in the form of final product or alternatively as crude which is refined in Whitegate, County Cork, which is Ireland’s only refinery. The refinery supplies 25-30 percent of the domestic market and approximately one third of the product from the refinery is exported.