Sunday 17 December 2017

Whitegate to continue refining after being sold to Canada's Irving Oil

An aerial view of Whitegate, Ireland’s only oil refinery
An aerial view of Whitegate, Ireland’s only oil refinery
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The country's only oil refinery, at Whitegate in Co Cork, is set to continue supplying the Irish market following confirmation yesterday of its sale by US owner Phillips 66 to Canada's Irving Oil.

The Irish Independent reported last week that a deal had at last been sealed by Phillips 66 to sell the refinery, which the Texas firm has been trying to sell, on and off, since 2013.

Family-owned Irving Oil, based in Saint John, New Brunswick, confirmed yesterday that it will acquire the facility, which can process 75,000 barrels of oil a day. There had been fears that a new owner would use the refinery to store oil, mothballing its refining activities.

However, Irving Oil said it intends to continue refining at the site. That will come as a relief to the 160 people employed at the facility, and hundreds of others including contractors whose work is connected to the refinery.

"We are delighted to be pursuing an acquisition that feels so natural for us," said Ian Whitcomb, president of Irving Oil. "The Whitegate refinery has a tremendous reputation as a vital and secure supplier to the Irish market, and we will uphold that commitment very proudly and very seriously."

The Government had been concerned that refining operations at the site would cease, which it believed posed security of supply issues.

Irving Oil said the acquisition will enable it to expand its business across the Atlantic to gain valued customers in Ireland, "in addition to securing optionality for its business". It expects to finalise the sale in the current quarter.

Whitegate supplies between 30pc and 40pc of the requirements of the Irish retail market, excluding jet kerosene.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Denis Naughten welcomed the sale of the refinery.

"This is very positive, not just in relation to maintaining oil refining on this island, but also for Cork and for the country in general," he said.

"The continued operation of the refinery at Whitegate on a commercial basis is an important part of our security of supply."

Irving Oil was founded in 1924, and operates Canada's largest refinery, in New Brunswick.

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