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Shell’s Corrib exit leaves energy giants up to €2.5bn in the red

13 July 2017

Energy groups behind the controversial Corrib gas field off the Mayo coast are as much €2.5 billion in the red on their investment, as Shell’s move to sell a stake to a Canadian state pension fund has left it with loss of up to €1 billion.

Shell, currently in the middle of selling up to $30 billion (€26.3 billion) of assets to cut its debt pile, has agreed to sell its 45 per cent stake to a unit of the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB).

The deal could be worth as little as €830 million to Shell but its return may rise by up to €250 million over the next eight years subject to future gas prices and the field reaching certain production targets. This would also boost the value of the other investors’ stakes in the project.

The sale, expected to close by the end of June next year, will bring an end to Shell’s involvement in the most controversial infrastructure project in the history of the State.

Discovered 21 years ago, the Corrib gas field was dogged by years of opposition before natural gas started to flow from the field in December 2015. Shell acquired a stake in 2002.


Between August 2005 and June 2014, the policing of protests and protection of workers at project sites cost the State some €16.4 million, mainly due to the deployment of gardaí.

Sources said that three partners behind the field – Shell, Norwegian oil and gas group Statoil and Canada’s Vermilion Energy – had invested almost €4.3 billion in the project.

At peak production, Corrib has the potential to meet up to 60 per cent of Ireland’s gas needs and is expected to supply fuel for up to 20 years.

Maura Harrington, spokeswoman for the Shell to Sea group which has opposed the project, said , “Shell may have been bought, but we will never be”.

“We have inherited a new owner and Shell to Sea will continue to fight on behalf of the Irish people to defend our natural resources,”she said.

The Canadian fund has also struck a deal with Vermilion, which holds an 18.5 per cent stake in Corrib, to take over as operator of the field. CPPIB will transfer 1.5 percentage points of its 45 per cent holding to Vermilion under this part of the transaction. Statoil will continue to hold a 36.5 per cent investment in the field.

The Canadian fund will also be able to slash its tax bill over the coming years by using accumulated losses at Shell E&P Ireland, the company it is buying which holds the Corrib stake. As of the end of 2015, this company had €187 million of such credits on its books, or what are known as deferred tax assets. A spokesman for Shell and Avik Dey of CPPIB declined to say what level these credits stand at.


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