"The government has relinquished control over the offshore areas of our industry. Norway was tough regarding oil companies from the start. You now have an almost embarrassingly large pension fund. The situation for Irish communities, however, is as in Ogoniland in Nigeria - oil is a curse,”
Natural gas supplier Marathon signalled yesterday that it could sell its Irish operations. Texas-based Marathon has been supplying natural gas to the Irish network from wells off the south coast since 1978. Last year it produced 8 per cent of the country's needs.
The multinational issued a statement yesterday saying that it intended evaluating its Irish assets as part of a global review of its operations. Marathon stated that the review could ultimately lead to a sale of the Irish business if it receives an acceptable offer.
"If an acceptable offer is not received, we will continue to operate our interests in Ireland in the same professional manner in which we have done so for the past 40 years," the company said.
Marathon added that the global review was aimed at identifying businesses that are mature or "non-strategic" with a view to selling them and reinvesting the proceeds in developing its operations. Before issuing the statement at lunchtime yesterday, the company informed workers at its Irish base in Cork. Marathon employs 61 people in Ireland.
The company owns and operates the Kinsale Head and Ballycotton gas fields off the Cork coast. It holds 86.5 per cent of the Seven Head field, which it bought from Scottish explorer, Ramco, in 2006. It also has an 18.5 per cent interest in the Corrib field off the west coast, whose other owners are Shell and Norwegian state company Statoil.
Marathon's involvement in Corrib is financial only. It will not be operating the field. A high-profile local campaign has delayed the development of the gas field.
Marathon was the first company to begin producing natural gas from wells in Irish territorial waters. It has had a presence here for 40 years and, at one stage, was the main supplier to Bord Gáis, which owns the Irish network and supplies the fuel to more than 500,000 households in the Republic.
In 2007, it produced 44 million cubic feet - the unit in which the fuel is measured - of natural gas, which amounted to 8 per cent of the State's requirements.
Gas is the dominant fuel in electricity generation and is used in modern power plants such as Tynagh Energy and Viridian's two facilities in the Republic. The ESB is planning to build a modern gas-fired plant next to an existing power station that uses the same fuel at Aghada in Cork harbour.
The announcement comes at a time when oil and gas prices have been rising. Over the last month, natural gas rose from $7.60 to $9.12 for a million thermal units in New York. However, prices dipped one US cent yesterday as government data showed that stocks in the US are holding up ahead of the end of winter.
© 2008 The Irish Times