State-commissioned report finds Ireland does not need own oil refinery
Rabbitte says continued use of Whitegate on commercial basis highly desirable
Whitegate refinery, which its US-based owner Phillips 66 is preparing to sell
Ireland does not need to have it own oil refinery as it can import enough of the fuel to meet all its needs, according to a Government-commissioned report published yesterday.
The news comes as US-based Phillips 66, owner of the country’s sole refinery at Whitegate in Cork Harbour, gears up to sell the plant along with a number of its other European operations.
The multinational’s decision has thrown a question mark over Whitegate’s long-term future, although as it stands anyone who owns the refinery has to keep it operating until at least 2016.
A Government-commissioned report, Study of the Strategic Case for Oil Refining Requirements on the Island of Ireland, published yesterday, says “there is no imperative for the island of Ireland to have its own refining assets, and the current infrastructure would be capable of supplying the required product imports”.
However, it stresses that Whitegate provides an alternative supply line to imports, is economically beneficial and provides jobs.
A total of 180 people work in the Co Cork facility.
In statement following the report’s publication, Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte said the Government’s “primary conclusion” is that having an operating oil refinery here increases the options available if supplies are disrupted and mitigates complete dependence on imports.
“As such, the continued operation of the Whitegate refinery on a commercial basis is highly desirable,” he said.
“An operating refinery also adds value to the Irish economy and provides significant employment.”
Mr Rabbitte added that his department intended to liaise with the oil industry and relevant public bodies to determine what policies were needed to facilitate the commercial future of refining in Ireland.
Whitegate processes 71,000 barrels of oil a day and it supplies around 30 per cent of the country’s requirement every year.
According to the report, oil accounted for almost 60 per cent of the Republic’s energy consumption in 2011.
The document points out that, taken as a whole, the existing import facilities could supply total oil demand in Whitegate’s absence, although it adds that this results in additional costs of €9.5 million a year in areas of south Munster.
The report, produced by US-based oil industry consultants Purvin & Gertz and Dublin-based practice Byrne Ó Cléirigh, also finds that the port and transport infrastructure is robust enough to ensure that if supplies were disrupted at one entry point the others are capable of taking up the slack and ensuring that overall supplies are not affected.
It recommends that Mr Rabbitte’s department work with its counterpart in the North to develop contingency plans to use the extra capacity available across all six major commercial oil ports in Ireland in cases where supplies to one are disrupted.
It warns that the department should monitor EU legislation, such as the fuel quality directive, that could impact on Whitegate more than other refiners and ensure that it has some mechanism available to limit this impact.
* This article was amended on Thursday, August 1st, 2013