Move to ban fuel exploration licences could have ‘devastating consequences’

Ireland’s oil and gas industry believes Bill could pose ‘enormous threats’, survey finds

A Providence Resources oil rig off the southwest coast of Ireland. Photograph: Finbarr O’Rourke

A Providence Resources oil rig off the southwest coast of Ireland. Photograph: Finbarr O’Rourke

 

A move to ban the issuing of fuel exploration licences in Ireland poses “enormous threats” to Ireland’s energy supply and could have “devastating economic consequences”, a survey of the Irish oil and gas industry finds.

Almost 90 per cent of respondents to a survey by professional services firm PwC reported that the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill would cause “significant damage” to the industry.

The Bill would categorise current atmospheric levels of CO2 as “an emergency” and on that basis call on the Government not to issue any new fossil fuel exploration licences – France, Costa Rica and Belize have already implemented similar measures.

But executives in the Irish industry suggest the Bill would be negative, particularly considering the Government last week said “Ireland will continue to need oil and gas supplies for the foreseeable future”.

Uncertainty

“In these times of uncertainty, it is critical that the Government continues to take steps to encourage investment. However, the Climate Emergency Measures Bill is a huge cause of concern for the industry and the absence of any domestic oil and gas supply for the country poses enormous threats to Ireland’s economy as the country is heavily dependant upon supplies from the UK and further afield,” said Ronan MacNioclais, a partner in PwC’s oil and gas practice.

PwC’s survey – which was carried out this summer – found that 42 per cent of respondents saw Ireland’s reputation as a location for exploration as a key challenge for exploration companies.

The lack of commercial discoveries and reputational damage as a result of the Corrib oil field debacle are issues, however, the sale of the Corrib field to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is seen as a positive step.

Additionally, with oil prices expected to increase in the next two years, 63 per cent of those surveyed rated the overall outlook for the industry over the next two years as “favourable”.

Stabilisation

“The stabilisation and improvement in oil and gas prices in recent times has had a positive impact on the Irish oil and gas industry. Over half reported a high level of optimism in relation to the level of petroleum they believe has yet to be discovered in Ireland in spite of the lack of historic commercial discoveries here,” Mr MacNioclais said.

Respondents to the survey are also seeking government intervention to streamline the regulatory and planning process and promote the benefits to the industry to Irish communities.

Some communities will need more promotion activities than others, the survey suggests, with 42 per cent of respondents indicating that the north and south Porcupine Basin – off the south-west coast of Ireland – was the most popular location for exploration.