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Europa’s eureka

De Facto

Major Inishkea gas find, but who will benefit?

DeFacto
Liamy MacNally

Seven years ago in this column I wrote about a 2006 Government Indecon report that claimed there is a minimum of 10 billion barrels of oil (and gas) off our shores. Work it out. At $70 a barrel, it would more than pay for the bank bailout debt that was unfairly pressed upon Irish citizens. And we would still have a lot of change.
There has been a major gas find off the Mayo coast, bigger than Corrib. The UK-based Europa Oil & Gas (Holdings) PLC ‘has elected to fast track an ongoing technical work programme following positive results’ from their flagship project in Ireland, the Inishkea prospects in the Slyne basin near the Corrib gas field.
All going well the drilling will start in 2020.
A Europa newsletter, dated March 14, 2018, available on www.europaoil.com, states:
“We believe 2.5 tcf [trillion cubic feet] of undiscovered Gas Initially In Place (GIIP) is likely to translate into commercially significant prospective resources. We understand that the recovery factor at the Corrib field is ~ 80 percent.
“Water depths are comparatively shallow (400-600m) and do not require harsh environment sixth generation drillships therefore drill costs are lower. We have recently conducted a drill cost estimate for a well on the Inishkea prospect and dry hole cost including mob and demob is US$28 million using a prevailing rig rate of US$120,000 per day.
“Gas infrastructure is already present nearby at Corrib therefore a fast track path to commercialisation is potentially available, subject to negotiation and cooperation with the infrastructure owners. Gas is likely to be a significant component of Ireland’s future energy needs both for electricity generation and domestic and industrial heating.”
The announcement also carried other interesting news:
“The Corrib field was discovered by Enterprise Oil in 1996. Europa has access to a number of former Enterprise staff responsible for this project, including: the geophysicist who first mapped the Corrib prospect, the Dublin exploration manager responsible for the first four exploration and appraisal wells and the Dublin general manager responsible for taking the field through to consent for plan of development. Europa therefore has significant and relevant technical, commercial and project management expertise to apply to gas exploration in LO 16/20 [see map].”
The company has also appointed Brian Ó Catháin (former Enterprise chief) as a non-executive director.
Back in 2001 a group from Mayo, including yours truly, visited the Shetland Islands to meet local people, oil/gas industry personnel, councillors and council officials. It was a fact-finding trip to ascertain how the people of the Shetlands benefitted from oil and gas around their shoreline.
Shetland councillors sought legal protection in the early 1970s after the discovery of oil and gas. This gave special powers to the council, who dictated operating terms to the oil/gas companies and charged accordingly. To this day, Shetlanders benefit from community trust funds set up to protect their way of life and enhance local support services.
And what of the local Erris people? They still fight for a decent road between Belmullet and Castlebar, decent broadband and other infrastructural supports. Tarmac drives, colour televisions and a few cases of drink are all poor substitutes for genuine community support. Even the grandly titled Corrib Gas Community Gain Investment Fund, administered through Mayo County Council, is a pittance.
Shell is moving on, Europa will soon take over. The only constant is the people of Erris. Any benefit that accrued to people was thanks to the fight by people like the Rossport Five and others whose campaigns embarrassed governments into providing gas to areas in the west.
Is there any plan in place when the cashed-in family silver flows through the gas pipelines as it skirts its way across the Irish Sea? What now for TDs and councillors? Will big business be the winners and local communities lose out?
Déjà vu.


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