Irish government to provide certainty on offshore licenses in first-ever policy paper

Certainty on existing Irish offshore exploration licenses will be set out in the official Government policy paper on the sector, which is scheduled for December. 

For illustration: Irish coast; Source: Pixabay

The Irish Offshore Operators’ Association (IOOA) said last week that the timing of the first-ever Government policy paper on the exploration sector in Ireland had been confirmed to the association in writing, together with confirmation that it would contain an acknowledgment of a ‘fundamental duty to protect Ireland’s energy security’.

According to the IOOA, the government says the paper will also acknowledge the security rationale for ‘using indigenous over imported sources in terms of employment, tax yield, and lower carbon impact’.

A commitment has also been provided by the government to ‘address current uncertainties’ and ‘providing greater clarity on what is required of the industry in order to underpin the operation of a robust and effective regulatory regime.’

Responding, Mandy Johnston, CEO of IOOA said: “A policy paper on exploration is a first for Ireland and represents a real effort to end a period of political and regulatory uncertainty.

“As the representative body of the offshore sector, we remain fully engaged with the Government ahead of the publication. We welcome assurances that exploration remains part of the energy mix into the future, including assurances that all applications and authorizations in place will progress as normal through standard lifecycle stages.

“This acknowledgment does bring us forward towards the certainty our sector has been seeking. The policy paper next month is a real opportunity to flesh that out and ensure that offshore resources remain the backbone of Irish energy security and supply, as they have been for over four decades.”

To remind, oil and gas operators with assets in Ireland in late September sought clarification following the government’s announcement about plans to end all future oil exploration in the country due to its incompatibility with a low-carbon future.

Namely, during the UN Climate Action Summit in September An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated the Irish Government’s intention to phase out oil exploration licenses in the future.

Varadkar said that Ireland’s Independent Climate Change Advisory Council had recommended that exploration for oil should end as it is incompatible with a low-carbon future. The Council recommend that exploration for natural gas should continue for now as a transition fuel.

The Government of Ireland then confirmed that the country’s existing exploration licenses would not be affected by the announcement of its plans to end all future oil exploration in the country. Irish offshore oil and gas industry welcomed this clarification, but asked for further clarity on how the new government’s proposal for future licensing rounds would be implemented.

The IOOA on November 12 received further clarification on the country’s existing licences.

On that occasion the government confirmed that all future licensing rounds in the currently closed area offshore (Atlantic Margin – 80%) would be for natural gas only and not oil.

The government also confirmed that all new license applications in the currently open area (Celtic Sea, Irish Sea, coastal areas – 20%) would be for natural gas only and not oil, applicable from the day of the Taoiseach and Minister Bruton’s announcement on September 23, 2019.

The government also confirmed that all applications and authorizations in place before the announcement was made would not be affected by the decision.

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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