State commits to offshore oil drilling

By Geoff Percival

The Government has affirmed its support for offshore oil and gas exploration.

In doing so, it has formally criticised a bill aimed at banning drilling, by saying it “will do nothing” to reduce Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Addressing delegates at the Atlantic Ireland exploration conference in Dublin, yesterday, Seán Canney — Rural Affairs and Natural Resources junior minister — said while fossil fuel consumption will reduce over time, Ireland will continue to need oil and gas supplies for the foreseeable future.

He said People Before Profit’s Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) Climate Emergency Measures Bill 2018, which is currently at Oireachtas Committee stage, might be well-intentioned, but won’t help Ireland lower its emissions or levels of imported energy.

The bill will do nothing to reduce our use of oil or gas, it will do nothing to help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and it will do nothing to help us meet our 2020 and 2030 energy and climate targets.

"Instead, it proposes simply to bind us to only importing our future oil or gas needs,” he said.

The minister of state said the Government “continues to be committed to exploration in the Irish offshore by acting innovatively and complementing the work being undertaken by industry and the research community.”

“The Government recognises that the realisation of Ireland’s offshore oil and gas resource potential can deliver significant benefits to the people of Ireland, in terms of security of supply, import substitution, and fiscal return,” Mr Canney said.

“The bill remains purely a legislative proposal.

"Government policies in respect of climate action, energy and offshore exploration, and the application of such policies, remain unchanged,” he said, but added that the Government is committed to the transformation required to achieve a low carbon and climate resilient future.

Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Providence Resources chief executive Tony O’Reilly said it was “a good thing to see” a government minister affirming the relevance of oil and gas in Ireland in front of an audience of so many major industry players.

Mr O’Reilly said the role played by oil and gas in the Irish economy is increasing not decreasing.

Further afield, BP saw profits hit a five-year high and said production will increase further thanks to its $10.5bn (€9.2bn) acquisition of BHP Billiton’s US shale business — which it will now fund from available cash, rather than through a rights issue.

Third-quarter underlying replacement cost profit, the company’s definition of net income, rose to $3.8bn, far exceeding forecasts of $2.85bn. That compared with a profit of $1.86bn a year earlier and $2.8bn in the second quarter of 2018.

Meanwhile, oil slid to a two-month low — Brent Crude down $1.30 to just over $76 a barrel — on escalating US-China trade tensions.

“Trade tensions with China have impacted demand,” said Phil Streible, senior market strategist at RJ O’Brien Associates in the US.

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