Sunday 22 September 2019

Political threats fuel uncertainty, Providence warns


Providence boss Tony O'Reilly has warned that the exploration sector is an easy target for critics
Providence boss Tony O'Reilly has warned that the exploration sector is an easy target for critics

Fearghal O'Connor

Providence Resources CEO Tony O'Reilly Jr has said that the oil and gas industry is an easy target for environmental concerns, and that political pressure to ban offshore exploration is hurting the sector in Ireland.

The firm - which has set a deadline of tomorrow to receive $10m (€9m) in cash promised to it by its Chinese partner APEC Energy Enterprise to fund survey work at its Barryroe oil field - would be one of the biggest losers from any renewed push to end exploration in Ireland's Atlantic waters.

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If the Chinese funding - already delayed since June - does not arrive as promised, Providence will seek alternative funding, likely through debt financing or a share placing.

He said: "Our working capital position is such that if funds aren't forthcoming within a certain period of time, then we would obviously have to look at alternative financing. That's what one does. So by saying it, you can assume that we've looked at it, but that's not our primary objective."

Providence's goal to develop the Barryroe find - and to explore a range of other targets - would have been jeopardised if the recent Climate Emergency Bill had not been killed off by the Government after it was backed by a majority in the Dáil. "When you have rights and anybody talks about suddenly taking those rights away, clearly that creates uncertainty, and uncertainty is not a good thing for a business that relies on international capital," said O'Reilly.

"One can't escape the fact that climate change is an issue that needs to be dealt with. But you have got to also look at what are the causes of climate change. The oil and gas industry is an easy target because oil and gas produce CO2 but, of course, probably the biggest thing is, there are too many people on this planet. And we're cutting down rainforests to create arable land," he said.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan told the Sunday Independent that a ban on exploration would be easily agreed "in the first five minutes of any programme for government negotiation", should his party find itself in such discussions.

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