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October 24th 2016, Whitegate, Midleton, Co Cork
It's a pleasure to be invited to the rebel county and to the beautiful village of Whitegate for this special event to mark Irving Oil as the new owners of Whitegate refinery. I am also delighted to have the opportunity to meet (name check on arrival) and your management team and staff.
As Energy Minister it is important to acknowledge Cork as an important location in Irish energy terms and Whitegate is really at the heart of what we could call the "Cork energy hub."
There's the Aghada power plant, the Calor LPG bottling plant next door, the Centrica power plant here on site beside Ireland's only refinery. We're also not far from the Bantry Terminal, from the Barryroe oil exploration site, the old Kinsale gas field and from IMERC – the Irish Maritime and Energy Reseach Cluster beside National Maritime College in Haulbowline with its renewable energy test and research facilities, not to mention UCC and the Tyndall Institute.
The previous owners of the Whitegate refinery, Phillips66, were a good company for Whitegate in terms of health and safety, best practice and investment in the facilities.
The Whitegate refinery is the only refinery on the island and it is important for a number of reasons. Without a refinery there is a complete reliance on oil product imports whereas the refinery can source crude oil, which might be more easily available, from many parts of the world. The Whitegate refinery also provides quality employment to many people and indirect jobs to others. As such it plays a very important role in the local economy and region.
It's important that the strategic role refineries play in European energy security is acknowledged but refining in Europe has been struggling in recent years. We also need to consider who is benefiting if industry moves to other jurisdictions outside the EU where they aren't held to the same environmental standards, but European oil consumption remains constant.
While we have made a lot of progress on energy efficiency and renewable energy, particularly wind, in recent years oil is still the dominant fuel in Ireland's energy mix. Even as we move to a low carbon energy system, there will still be a need for fossil fuels so the production of oil at facilities such as Whitegate will continue to be a key need for our economy.
Oil has been virtually eliminated from the Elictricity generation sector, but continues to be important for heating. Our transport sector also depends almost exclusively on petrol and diesel. Ireland is very much committed to playing its part in terms of renewable energy and reducing emissions and we are committed to the Paris Agreement. This week I will be seeking Dail approval in order to proceed to full ratification.
I am pleased that I have been able to secure over €100 million in Budget 17 for energy efficiency measures. This will ensure existing schemes continue and the piloting of new ones.
There may be a promising role for the Whitegate refinery in terms of HVO - Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil - production. HVO has an advantage over some other biofuels in that it is not restricted by blending limits and can, therefore, be blended at higher levels with diesel. Biofuels are a key element in increasing renewable energy in transport, and you will be aware that the proportion of biofuels required in the road transport fuel mix will increase from the beginning of next year.
Some refineries across Europe have gone down this route and are involved in HVO production.
I would again like to thank Irving Oil for the invitation to be here today and I wish XX every success in Ireland and your entry into the European market.