Ireland seems to be close to cashing in on its own “black gold” off the Cork coast. Tony O’Reilly Jr, the chief executive, said the Providence Resources’ Barryroe field, 30 miles offshore, should yield 280m barrels of recoverable oil and called it the “beginning of an Irish oil industry”. The negotiations seem to be in the final stages.
Ireland would take 25% of all profits, rising to 40% depending on the volume extracted and with Brent crude currently trading around US$114 a barrel.
While 280m barrels of oil seems small compared to the 3 billion barrels discovered off the coast of Norway in 2010. Nonetheless, taking 25% of potentially billions would be a huge boost to the cash strapped country.
However the country has never successfully extracted a drop of oil in the past and there are concerns. In July, its Ireland’s Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he was cautious of quoted figures over oil resources which had not yet been tested.
“Oil may be there but there is a limit on how much you can get out, and this is still only a tiny fraction of what would be used,” he said.
“Like any drilling at sea, there are risks to it – the highest standards need to be applied.”
The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) has also voiced concerns about any potential oil extraction around Rathlin Island, off County Antrim, a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area. The group argues that the area too important for wildlife and suitable research into the potential impact has yet to be carried out.
Anxieties also surround issues over where the oil will be refined. Some experts fear that the oil will be taken straight to the European continent. Mr. O’Reilly has been quick to shoot down criticism that Ireland would have little role in the industry which would mean less Irish jobs. However O’Reily claims that “We intend to utilize the structure of Ireland. We have been very clear in that regard. It makes good business sense for us. It is mad that we would take it elsewhere.”
There are valid environmental concerns from the Irish public. The people have always valued their country’s natural beauty. However Barryroe field offers Ireland hundreds of new jobs and billions in tax revenue. Jobs and revenue are the two things that Ireland is desperate for. They will have to put their number one asset in harm’s way to achieve this economic relief.