Brexit may force Dublin to take its emergency Derry oil to France or Spain

Several crises in the Middle East in the late 1970s and early 1980s created chaos and panic across the country.
Several crises in the Middle East in the late 1970s and early 1980s created chaos and panic across the country.

Tonnes upon tonnes of emergency oil stored by Dublin in Derry and Carrickfergus, to ensure the southern state can continue to function for at least ninety-days in the event of a major crisis, may have to be moved to France or Spain as a consequence of Brexit.

Dublin’s energy minister Denis Naughten hopes this scenario won’t play out in the years ahead and wants to keep the island’s emergency oil stocks on the island.

Mr. Naughten has revealed that almost a tenth of the southern National Oil Reserves Agency’s (NORA) three month emergency reserve is held at terminals in Maydown and Cloghan Point in Carrickfergus. NORA’s reserve includes 70,000 tonnes of crude oil and 1.5 million tonnes of refined products, mainly petrol, diesel, gas oil, kerosene and jet fuel, held in Ireland, Britain and Europe.

Mr. Naughten revealed Derry’s strategic importance when quizzed about the impact of Brexit on the national oil reserve in the Dáil by Sinn Féin T.D. Brian Stanley.

Mr. Stanley said that the more oil reserves on the island of Ireland, the more secure the “oil resources are and the quicker they can be accessed, particularly in times of conflict, etc”.

The energy minister agreed, outlining in detail, how and where the emergency oil stock is distributed.

“Approximately 57 per cent of Ireland’s strategic oil reserve is held in Ireland, 20 per cent is held in the UK, nine per cent in Northern Ireland and 11 per cent in Scotland,” he said.

“The remaining 23 per cent is held in the other EU countries, Denmark, Sweden and Spain. The reserve held in Northern Ireland is held in Derry and in Cloghan Point - those are the two storage facilities,” he said.

Under European Union and International Energy Agency (IEA) rules Ireland must maintain 90 days’ worth of emergency oil stocks at all times but while the IEA will let Dublin store some of its reserve in the United Kingdom for the foreseeable future the EU may not. Under EU Directive 2009/119/EC member states have to maintain emergency oil stocks within the EU, of which Derry may no longer be a part by April 2019.

Mr. Naughten said: “If we were to move away from the UK if we did not get a derogation to this particular EU directive, it would probably mean that we would have to store that in France, and more likely, in Spain because it is probably the only place where there is any bit of capacity at present.

“It makes far more sense to hold it on the island of Ireland than having that in France or in Spain. It makes far more sense to store that in Scotland than in France or Spain because of accessibility and it is my objective, as part of these negotiations, to ensure that we get a derogation that complies with what are the IEA rules anyway,” said Mr. Naughten.