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 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Energy Resources

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 900 No. 1

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Topical Issue Debate

Energy Resources

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton I thank the Office of the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter today and the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Alex White, for being present. I really appreciate it.

This issue concerns the importance of the oil refinery in Whitegate. It is the only oil refinery in Ireland and, as the Minister knows, it is up for sale. I want to recognise the fact that the Minister, his Department and his officials engaged with the owners, management and workers over the past while. Today, all of us have the opportunity to discuss the issue in the Dáil. I am interested in hearing the Minister's reaction to my view that the refinery is of strategic importance to the State.

It supplies 40% of Ireland's transport needs and sells on a wholesale, rather than retail, basis. I have been told it turns around about 200 lorries per day, a figure which has risen to well over 300 at times of peak demand. If it were to close, it would be a major shock to the State, and that is why it is of strategic importance. The fuel, as the Minister knows, is used for transport, industry, agriculture, shipping, food production, heating, hospitals, haulage, public transport and so on. The refinery also produces liquid petroleum gas for a local company, Calor Gas.

All other fuel is imported, mainly from the UK. The refinery acts as a competitor to the importation of fuel. No other country in Europe has allowed all of its refining capacity to be closed, and that should not happen in Ireland. I ask the Minister and the current and future Governments to support the continuation of refining in Whitegate and to continue the positive engagement that has occurred to date with the owners, any future owners, the workforce and local management.

I understand it is the wish and hope of the owners and local management that refining will continue - the refinery is being sold as a going concern. Refining is a high-volume, low-margin business, as the Minister knows. In 2014, the refinery made a loss, but some of that involved write-downs. I understand it is doing very well this year. Of more significance, however, is its importance to the State. We know what is happening in Europe and around the world. We live in volatile times. The risk, fear and concern is that we, as an island nation, would be exposed if the refinery was to shut down. We may be at risk of having a shortage of transport fuel, and that would be a major blow to our economy. That is why the refinery is of strategic importance.

Locally, over 300 workers are employed in the refinery, comprising 157 staff and 130 contractors. About €100 million is spent in the local economy in the Cork region. It is also very important from that point of view. I have been told that 600 ancillary jobs are dependent on the refinery, which again shows its importance. It accounts for about half of the shipping tonnage in Cork Harbour.

It was offered for sale in 2014. The Bantry terminal was sold and the current obligation expires in July 2016. That is why it is now crucial to engage with the process and for the Government and State to be as supportive as possible to ensure the continuation of refining in Cork. We need to do whatever we can to encourage purchasers to come to Cork and continue the refining capacity and operation as much as possible. I am interested in hearing what the Minister has to say about this issue. I contend this is an important and strategic refinery for national and local reasons, and I have brought the matter to the floor of the Dáil today so that the Minister has an opportunity to respond.

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