The refinery supplies about 30% of Ireland’s oil needs and there are major concerns about security of supply if the refinery were to be sold.
A spokesperson for the department said that the refinery has been in private hands since 2001 and that the operation was a matter for the owners.
“The day-to-day operation of the refinery is a matter for the current owners, Phillips 66, and the department is continuing to engage with Phillips 66 regarding their future plans for the Irish business,” he said.
Despite the Government’s policy of moving to more renewable energy sources the country remains overwhelmingly dependent on oil and gas.
A spokesperson for the department said that Whitegate remains a crucial part of the Irish energy supply chain.
“The Government is committed to enhancing energy security and to delivering national renewable energy and energy efficiency objectives aimed at moving the economy away from reliance on imported fossil fuels.
“However, Ireland continues to be dependent on oil and natural gas to meet its energy needs and in that regard Whitegate Refinery remains an important element of Ireland’s overall oil supply infrastructure,” the spokesperson said.
Fears over the future of the refinery emerged after the vice president of refining, Larry Ziemba, told a Bank of America Merrill Lynch refining conference that Philips 66 would entertain offers for its refineries in Europe and Asia.
“We have a couple of smaller refineries. If we got the right price for them, they are really not strategic,” he said.
In particular he said that their Irish operation was neither sophisticated or competitive.
“We’ve got a refinery in Ireland that is small, and not sophisticated. It really can’t compete in Europe,” he said.