Pat Rabbitte says retaining Irish oil refinery 'desirable'

Irish Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte has said the continued operation of Ireland's sole oil refinery on a commercial basis is "highly desirable".

Last month its owner, Phillips 66, announced it was putting the plant up for sale.

In a report on the future of Ireland's oil refining, Mr Rabbitte said the presence of a refinery provided "flexibility" if the situation arose of an oil supply disruption, by avoiding a complete reliance on oil product imports.

The plant in Cork produces 72,000 barrels-a-day and currently supplies Ireland with 25-30% of its oil products - a third of its output is exported.

"The continued operation of the Whitegate Refinery on a commercial basis is highly desirable," said the energy minister.

Analysts have said the chance of the Phillips 66 finding a buyer is slim as Europe's refining industry is struggling with over-capacity.

The study concluded that if Whitegate ceased operating as a refinery there would be an incremental cost to the local economy of 9.5m euros (£8.29m) per annum to source alternative supplies.

When the refinery was sold by the Irish government in 2001, a condition of the sale was that it had to continue to be operated until at least 2016.

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