Kerry warned on losing oil rig bounty

The industry group for offshore drilling firms is warning against moves to ban oil and gas exploration, as an exploratory drilling rig prepares to move into position in the Porcupine Basin off Kerry within days.

Finding oil off Kerry would bring direct benefits to the Kerry region, a briefing was told.

In what is seen as a boost for Kerry Airport, Babcock, the leading off shore helicopter carrier headquartered in Aberdeen, Scotland has set up a base at the airport in Farranfore to ferry personnel and rigging staff to and from the rig 230 kms off the Kerry coast over the next five months.

CNOOC Petroleum Europe Limited (formerly known as Nexen Petroleum U.K. Limited) will be the first of a number of major oil and gas exploration companies to move into porcupine bank area within days, a briefing in Farranfore was told.

Three flights a week by the huge G-Vint 19-seater helicopters familiar in the oil and gas industry on North sea platforms are scheduled. The machines will fly “ as high as possible” to minimise the noise over the Kingdom, Babcock representatives said.

Airplane flights from Dundee, three per week have also begun arriving in Kerry.

If oil or gas is found, the Killarney/Tralee hub looks set to be the base for hundreds of people directly employed on the rigs, the briefing for public representatives, chambers of commerce and press in Kerry heard.

The crews of the Babcock pilots and engineers are already based in Killarney, and the seaport end of the operation will be based at Foynes, Co. Limerick 600 people will work off shore and hundreds more jobs will be created in support in Kerry, including by Babcock, if oil is found.

The exploration phase will be up to three years.

Advances in recent years drilling in sea depths of 2,000 metres as well as seismic data gathering are translating now into huge interest in the porcupine basin off Kerry, said Rory Dunphy Environmental Committee Chair with the Irish Offshore Operators Association ( IOOA) the representative body for companies already licensed by the Government to explore and produce oil and gas in Irish waters.

“The area is under-explored,” said Mr Dunphy who has returned for 15 years in the oil industry in western Canada.

While the focus to move to a low carbon economy is right, Ireland still needs its own oil and gas to replace imports, he said.

The oil industry tends to be in the regions and is of most benefit to the regions, he added.

However he warned about calls under climate emergency measures to ban all gas and oil exploration.

“It is causing uncertainty for the industry,” Mr Dunphy said.

A rigorous application and two year design work had gone into the operation so far.

Some 100 million dollars is spent exploratory and drilling operation wells and there needs to be certainty about the lease, he added.

Airport management indicated more staff are likely to be taken on at the airport to cater to the off shore exploration industry, particularly if oil or gas materialise.

On Monday, Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton resisted calls to stop all gas and oil exploration off Irish coasts because even by 2030 some 30 per cent of the country’s electricity supply would still be sourced from fossil fuels.

“It is better to have a domestic source than seeking to rely on other sources, be it Russian oligarchs or Arabic sheikhs,” the minister told British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly at the Druid’s Glen resort in Co Wicklow.

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