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Minister tells Dail that retention of refining capacity is highly desirable

David Stanton, Cork East Fine Gael TD has welcomed confirmation from Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White TD that Whitegate Refinery is of ‘strategic importance’ to the state and that its retention as an operational refinery is ‘highly desirable’. Minister White’s comments were made during a special Dail debate on the issue secured by David Stanton TD.

“The refinery in Whitegate has been operating since 1959 and the current owners, Phillips 66, are only contractually obliged to keep operating the facility until July 2016, which was a condition of the refinery’s sale in 2001. There is some concern among workers, their families and the local community of East Cork, that, without a suitable buyer for the facility that the refining capacity may cease next year and the facility might then be used as a storage/road transport depot only.

“While the sale of the oil refinery is ultimately a commercial decision, I was pleased that the Minister and Government have reiterated the strategic importance of the facility as Ireland’s only operating oil refinery and its economic importance in terms of local employment and for our energy security. The state’s capacity to retain an operating refinery which produces 40% of our energy requirements reduces our dependence on imports thus enhancing our energy flexibility and pricing during times of oil supply disruption. Security of supply is a fundamental aspect of our energy policy.

“There are currently 157 people directly employed at Whitegate refinery along with around 150 contractor employees. Approximately 600 ancillary jobs are also supported by the refinery. Sales of finished product are by wholesale only with 200 lorries collecting fuel every day which can rise to 300 in times of peak demand. The fuel is used for transport, industry, agriculture, shipping, food production, heating, hospitals, haulage and public transport and so on. The refinery also produces liquid petroleum gas. A large amount of expertise in oil refining operations and technology including the development of biofuels has been built up over the years at Whitegate. It is important that such expertise be retained.

“In addition to the €100 million that the Whitegate refinery contributes to the local economy, it should also be noted that it has also been a good neighbour and that present and former management have been strong supporters of community activities and organisations in Whitegate and East Cork over the decades”, said Deputy Stanton.

“I am pleased that the Government have recognised that the Whitegate Refinery is of strategic importance to our energy security and that the Minister has assured me in the Dail of the strong desire of Government to retain refining capacity in the State. The Minister is continuing to closely monitor developments and is maintaining strong contact with the owners Phillips 66 and local management, staff representatives, workers and trade unions. All interested groups are strongly of the view that Whitegate Refinery remains operating as a refinery.