Irish gov’t confirms plan to end oil exploration ‘only relates to future licenses’

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

Illustration; Source: Pixabay

To remind, during the UN Climate Action Summit on Monday evening 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 recommended that exploration for natural gas should continue for now as a transition fuel.

Following Varadkar’s statement at the summit, several oil and gas operators with assets in Ireland sought clarification of the situation through the offices of the Irish Offshore Operators’ Association (IOOA), the representative organization for the Irish offshore oil and gas industry.

Responding to the government’s announcement, the IOOA said in a statement on Monday that “energy security for Ireland is an important part of that process and we will seek a meeting with Government in relation to the matter in the coming weeks.”


‘Existing licenses remain valid’


Varadkar’s statement was clarified on Tuesday by a spokeswoman for the Taoiseach. According to the Irish Times, the spokeswoman for the Taoiseach said: “Existing licenses and options for oil and gas will remain valid but Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton will bring a memo to Government within a month to set out how the change will be implemented.

“This will relate to future applications,” she said.

“No new licensing round for the Atlantic “closed” area – 80 per cent of our waters – will be brought forward by the Government. This is the area where most of the exploration is now focused.

“License applications will still be accepted for [the] Celtic and Irish Sea on an ongoing basis,” she added.

The IOOA welcomed this clarification from the Government of Ireland that existing exploration licenses would be unaffected and the Government announcement at the United Nations Climate Action Summit only relates to future licenses not those granted in the 2015 License Round.

The clarification is clear that the Government’s proposals ‘will relate to future applications’ and that ‘existing licenses will remain valid,’ the organization said.


Further clarity needed 


As part of its ongoing commitment to engage with stakeholders to ensure energy transition and energy security for Ireland, IOOA said it had written to the Minister responsible for offshore exploration, Sean Canney TD, seeking a meeting on the implications of the announcement of September 23, 2019.

IOOA, Chief Executive Officer, Mandy Johnston, added: “The clarification that the announcement in the Taoiseach’s speech does not affect existing licenses is welcome. However, it is important that further clarity is given on how the new Government’s proposal for future licensing rounds will be implemented. With this in mind and as a representative body investing considerably in offshore Ireland we are seeking a meeting with Minister Canney at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Europa Oil & Gas, one of the operators with assets offshore Ireland, noted the statement released by the IOOA.

Europa’s CEO, Hugh Mackay, said: “We welcome the clarification provided by the Irish Government that existing offshore Ireland licenses remain valid. Europa has a large exploration position in Ireland, which includes our flagship Inishkea gas prospect that lies on the same play as, and is located close to, the producing Corrib gas field. With this in mind, we look forward to continuing to work closely both with the Irish Government and the IOOA.”

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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