Energy Institute

Where does our oil supply come from? How is it imported or moved around the country?

The sources of our refined petroleum products in 2014 are illustrated in the pie chart below (Figure 5). Most of the crude oil imports were from Norway and the UK, but some came from North and West-African countries. Refined product arriving through import facilities or from the Whitegate refinery is distributed to regional depots and retail stations throughout the country. In 2014 oil accounted for 56% of Ireland’s fossil fuel imports. Almost one third of this was in the form of crude oil for refining. The balance was in the form of refined products, mostly petrol, diesel, and jet fuel. We have the fourth highest oil dependency in the EU 1.

Figure 5. Refined oil products imports by source

SEAI (2016) Energy Security in Ireland. Available online


13 SEAI (2016) Energy Security in Ireland: a statistical overview. Available online.

  • United Kingdom
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • USA
  • Others

In 2014 about 76% of our imported refined or finished oil products came from the UK. The majority of the oil used in Ireland is imported for use in the transport sector (70% in 2014) – be that for aviation, industrial road haulage or individual motorists (Figure 6) 2.

Figure 6. Oil movements in Ireland in ktoe (thousands of tonnes of oil equivalent)


Ireland has one refinery at Whitegate, with crude oil accounting for 37% of our energy needs in 2014 3. European refineries are coming under pressure from rising global competition and falling domestic demand 4. Since 2008, American petroleum output has nearly doubled and OPEC has kept its production constant 5. The global refining market is oversupplied and the WTI-Brent spread is shrinking 6.

As much as 1.4 million barrels a day of refining capacity in Europe could be forced to shut by 2020 because of higher costs. As highlighted by the data below, nineteen European refineries, with 16% of the total capacity, have either closed or reduced their capacity since 2008 7.

In addition to the refinery in Whitegate, Ireland has a number of sea-port terminals strategically located around the country. The closure of many small, ageing and inefficient terminals has been offset by new builds. New facilities have opened in Foynes (2010), Galway (2009) and Derry (2008). These complement the import infrastructure in Dublin and Belfast; both have three independently operated import terminals.

An analysis of the Irish oil market 8 noted that Ireland is well served by its oil products import infrastructure and, with the exception of two counties, that each county in Ireland could be commercially supplied by at least two competing import facilities 9.