Ireland’s sole oil refinery is the frame to be reborn as a renewable energy production hub following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) by Canada’s Irving Oil and Cork-headquartered offshore wind-focused developer Simply Blue.

Under the MoU, the pair plan to explore converting the Whitegate facility, located in the south of the country on the Celtic Sea, for the generation of green hydrogen and down-stream use in the production of electro-fuels for local and international markets.

The refinery, first commissioned in 1959 and responsible for meeting 40% of Ireland’s fuel demand, would be powered by sea-based wind projects, including the 1GW Emerald floating array being advanced by Shell with Simply Blue.

“We are committed to leadership through the energy transition and engaging in strong partnerships is a key part of our strategy as we all work toward a lower carbon future,” said Irving Oil president Ian Whitcomb.

“Bringing together a key piece of energy infrastructure in Ireland – the Whitegate refinery – with Simply Blue’s global leadership in offshore wind development can create compelling new opportunities in Ireland.”

Simply Blue CEO Sam Roch-Perks said: “This is a potential game changer for Ireland. It presents the opportunity to become a pioneer and leader in e-fuels, a new industry sector that will prove vital in the fight against climate change.”

“Integrating large scale floating offshore wind farms – another huge opportunity for Ireland – with large onshore e-fuel production facilities also offers many advantages in efficiently addressing challenges associated with intermittency, energy storage and system balancing.”

Whitcomb added: “This important partnership with Simply Blue could yield important new opportunities to reduce emissions in the ongoing operations of the Whitegate refinery and enable the production of a new generation of ultra-low carbon energy products – specifically e-fuels – aligned with evolving customer demands and energy policy within the European Union.