Ireland 'close to oil billions'

 
Irish oil rig, Barryroe Barryroe off County Cork could yield 280m barrels, Providence says

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Ireland is on the verge of securing revenue from oil that could run into billions of pounds.

Providence Resources Plc, an Irish and UK company, has confirmed its Barryroe site, 30 miles off the Cork coast, should yield 280m barrels of oil.

The money generated will depend on the market value at the time of extraction and on licensing arrangements.

Providence chief executive Tony O'Reilly Jr said this was the beginning of an Irish oil industry.

He described it as a huge success story, following decades of exploration around the Irish coast.

"The great news today is that Barryroe is on a path towards development," he told BBC Northern Ireland's Good Morning Ulster.

Mr O'Reilly said more work needed to be done and issues such as taxation revenue, security of supply and jobs needed to be addressed.

But he said: "What we are announcing is the beginning of that (oil) industry.

"We hope there is a renaissance of interest by international companies who need to come to Ireland and help us to exploit our natural resources. We cannot do it alone."

Mr O'Reilly said the oil recovery rate at Barryroe had exceeded expectations and, with oil at about $100 per barrel (77 euros; £62.5) it offered "a lot of value".

He was also swift to reject critics' suggestions that Ireland would have little role in the industry and oil would not be landed there.

"We intend to utilise the structure of Ireland. We have been very clear in that regard. It makes good business sense for us. It is mad that we would take it elsewhere," he said.

Exxon Mobil

Providence intends to attract multi-national energy giants to "farm in" to its licence, which it bought from the Irish government for a nominal fee.

The company has already secured the expertise of the world's leading oil multi-national, Exxon Mobil, to explore its site at Drumquin.

However, campaigners have said that Ireland's relaxed laws with regard to its natural resources ought to be overhauled.

Ireland takes 25% of all profits, rising to 40% depending on the volume extracted.

Ireland's Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte concedes that the take is much lower than in the UK, or Norway, both of which have much greater resources of oil and gas.

But he says that the rate must remain attractive to foreign companies as Ireland does not have the expertise or revenue to exploit the reserves itself.

Others point out that all exploration costs can be off-set against any tax liable ones, and that a claim can go back as far as 25 years.

Providence is believed to have spent £0.5bn exploring Irish waters.

Campaigners like William Hederman, of Irishoilandgas.com, have warned that the oil from Barryroe may never be landed in Ireland, but instead taken for refinement to Europe or beyond, meaning fewer jobs on Irish soil.

And the Irish Green Party has also expressed reservations.

Environmental concerns

In July, its leader Eamon Ryan said he was wary of quoted figures over oil resources which had not yet been tested.

"Oil may be there but there is a limit on how much you can get out, and this is still only a tiny fraction of what would be used," he said.

"Like any drilling at sea, there are risks to it - the highest standards need to be applied."

The RSPB has also voiced concerns about any potential oil extraction around Rathlin Island, off County Antrim, a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area (SPA), which it argues is too important for wildlife to allow that to happen.

It says the potential impact of oil drilling on Rathlin Island has not been fully explored.

Meanwhile, Providence says its intention is to take the oil from Barryroe to Cork, but that it is a decision that will be made on a commercial basis closer to the time of extraction.

Some 25% in revenue of what is potentially billions of pounds worth of oil will, however, be a huge boost to a country which has never successfully extracted a drop of oil in the past.

 

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