Business Irish

Monday 19 February 2018

Whitegate refinery may avoid closure

Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

WHITEGATE refinery in Cork has several interested buyers and may avoid closure, the refinery's US owners said.

Greg Garland, chief executive of parent company Phillips 66, told analysts in New York that several potential buyers had expressed an interest in acquiring Ireland's only refinery.

"We do have people interested in Whitegate," he said of the 71,000 barrels-per-day plant in Cork. He declined to elaborate, but analysts had speculated that buyers would be tough to find.

The news will be welcomed by Whitegate's 200 staff. The refinery needs modernisation, and few potential buyers were thought willing to spend the kind of money needed to bring it up to date. It has operated in east Cork for nearly 55 years but a closure looked likely if it was not sold. This raised concerns about the vulnerability of Ireland's fuel supplies, as Whitegate supplies about one-third of the country's oil.

"The threat to its future has serious implications for Ireland's energy supply and consequently for our economy," said Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin earlier this summer.

Whitegate is just one of many European refineries that have struggled because of overcapacity, and lacks the operating cost advantage that cheap natural gas prices gives US refineries.

Texan oil company Phillips 66 is pulling out of Ireland completely and is also selling an oil and refined products storage terminal in Bantry Bay, as well as its wholesale marketing business. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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