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    Irish Gas Lobby Welcomes Clarity on Licensing

Summary

The government is banning the issue of new oil and gas licences, but has stressed it will honour existing permits.

by: Joe Murphy

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Irish Gas Lobby Welcomes Clarity on Licensing

The Irish Offshore Operators' Association (IOOA) has welcomed the Irish government's renewed commitment to honour existing oil and gas licences, despite closing the door on new permits.

Security of supply and access to cheaper and more sustainable gas are important objectives for a country on the fringes of Europe that imports pipeline gas from the UK – itself at the end of the continental gas supply chain – and still burns some peat for power generation. 

But the Irish climate minister Eamon Ryan secured cabinet approval on February 2 to introduce legislation banning licences for oil and gas exploration, following through on a promise the government made last summer. He made clear the ban would not "affect existing authorisations, with applications for authorisations and activities remaining subject to technical, financial and environmental assessments as appropriate."

"This will enable our members to proceed with projects around the Barryroe and Corrib fields with confidence," the IOOA's chairman Alan Linn, who is also CEO of  Providence Resources, said in a statement on February 2.

Corrib, launched in 2015, is Ireland's only source of domestic gas supply following the decommissioning the Kinsale fields last year. Junior explorers Providence Resources and Lansdowne Oil & Gas are preparing to take a final investment decision on Barryroe, hailed as one of the biggest undeveloped fields in Europe, after closing a farm-out deal with Norway's SpotOn Energy.

Ireland's oil and gas industry argue that continued exploration is needed to advance new projects like Corrib and Barryroe to ensure that Irish energy is secure and low-cost. Domestic oil and gas supplies can displace imports, the IOOA has said, which in turn reduces emissions because of shorter transport distances between the source of supply and the consumer.

Ireland's former Fine Gael government declared an end to the issue of oil licences in 2019, while saying permitting for gas would continue given its role as a "transition fuel." But the new coalition government formed last summer between Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Green Party has taken aim at gas as well. 

"We question the rationale for a future ban on exploration on a legislative basis as it limits Ireland's options for energy security in the future," Linn said, adding that the IOOA would work with regulators to ensure a more efficient and transparent permitting process. 

Jersey-based Predator Oil & Gas, which has offshore operations in Ireland, likewise welcomed the clarity regarding existing licences.

"With the natural transition to greener energy, it is incumbent on policy makers and regulators to be inclusive, in order to utilise  all the available expertise and practical knowledge to develop a workable policy for CO2 sequestration along the way to a sustainable energy future," Predator CEO Paul Griffiths said. "To facilitate such developments Predator will work with regulators, where invited to do so, to promote enabling legislation that facilitates CO2 sequestration. We have pioneered a new era of CO2 injection in Trinidad and de-risked the potential for larger scale CO2 sequestration. Why not Ireland?"