Our duty to stop oil exploration in Irish waters

Published by Sadhbh Lee on

September 18th, 2017

Last week, one of Ireland’s prominent oil and gas exploration companies, Providence Resources, revealed that their latest oil-drilling exploit in Irish waters hit a snag, or water in fact.

In July, Providence began drilling in Porcupine Basin, 220km off the southwest coast, in search of an estimated five billion barrels of oil. The first of its two wells, Druid, was revealed as a water-containing reservoir in early August.

Providence announced the poor results for the deeper Drombeg well on Monday, with the market taking notes as stocks dropped by 16 per cent in Dublin and almost 30 per cent in London.

Ironically, drilling began just one week after a Bill to ban onshore fracking in Ireland was signed into law by President Michael D Higgins.

Consent for the project was granted by the Minister for Natural Resources Sean Kyne, who defended the decision due to the potential benefits of “enhanced security supply and reduced fossil fuel imports”.

However, the extent of these benefits is questionable, and there are many drawbacks to offshore drilling that the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) has failed to adequately address.

Irish Economy

There is no direct financial gain for Ireland from these projects. They do not create Irish jobs, as we do not have a pool of skilled workers in this area. Our 25 per cent take on profits from oil and gas exploration – the second lowest in the world – can easily be written off against exploration, development and other costs.

Oiled Pelicans Photo: Governor Jindal’s office

Marine Ecosystem

As an island nation, protecting our seas and our marine life should be a priority. Oil-drilling places both environs under threat through both drilling itself and the implicit risk of oil spills.

A spill could, for example, severely damage fishing stocks, an industry which does actually provide employment and profit to Ireland.

And all sea-creature lovers would shudder to imagine our beloved Fungie meeting the same fate as his Gulf of Mexico cousins following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Global Warming

International experts have warned that 80 per cent of known fossil fuel resources must stay in the ground if we are to avoid going above the safe limit of 2 degrees of global warming.

Yet, the Irish government continues to search for more fossil fuels, pushing us towards a hotter and more volatile climate. Irma-god!

Renewable Energy

The DCCAE’s bottom-line justification rests on the idea of energy security, which is important on a domestic level and also for attracting international investors to Ireland.

However, why not focus on creating that security through further investment in renewables? Under the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive, Ireland has committed to producing just 16 per cent of all energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The Department’s website lists wind, bio-energy, and solar energy as areas for development, and claims that we have an “unparalleled offshore energy resource, with suitable conditions available for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies”.

It is time to act and take advantage of this “unparalleled” offshore resource and leave offshore oil exploration in the past.

The renewable energy sector is a growing, innovative area, while the oil and gas industry is struggling, with more and more jobs being lost to automation.

Opposition Campaign

Both Druid and Drombeg are being filled in, and Providence is packing up its drills – for now. Their next target is the Barryroe Well off the coast of Cork, with future projects including the Kish Basin off the Forty Foot in Dublin.

The news has led a group of young environmentalists to form an opposition campaign – Not Here Not Anywhere – to offshore oil and gas exploration, of which I am proud to be a part.

The group has held events in across the country to protest the drilling project, while a petition was also launched calling on Minister Naughten to stop the exploration and to ban all future offshore exploration in Irish waters.

The petition has gained over 2,600 signatures and will be delivered to the DCCAE office on Adelaide Road next Wednesday, 20 September 20 at 6pm.

Make your voice heard by signing the petition here or attending the Not Here Not Anywhere event on Wednesday.

Without strong opposition from the Irish public, oil and gas exploration in Irish waters will continue to proceed unchecked.

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Sadhbh Lee

Sadhbh is a junior doctor with a specific interest in the relationship between climate change, global health, and sustainable development.