THE continuing uncertainty over the operation of Ireland’s only oil refinery, at Whitegate in Cork Harbour, could have serious implications for the State’s energy supplies and consequently for our economy.
Whitegate is a strategic asset, processes 71,000 barrels of oil per day, and provides one third of all our transportation fuel. It is a long-term principal supplier to the National Oil Reserves Agency.
An assessment of the refinery was undertaken in 2013 by the Department of Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources. The study noted that overall oil demand has declined since peaking at 11.8m tonnes in 2006 and did not foresee it returning to the peak levels seen a decade ago.
The 2013 report concluded that it was difficult to justify the retention of Whitegate in its current form, due to declining demand for oil. At the time, the then minister, Pat Rabbitte, said he would set up a taskforce to examine the refinery’s future but that has never happened.
There is now growing concern that the refinery’s owners, Phillips 66, will withdraw from Whitegate when its current contract expires next year.
Perhaps there is a case to be made to bring the refinery back into public ownership so that investment can be secured to upgrade the facility and make it more competitive.
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