Belfast Telegraph

Royal Dutch Shell selling stake to end its Irish gas exploration and production

Royal Dutch Shell has agreed a deal worth up to 1.23 billion US dollars (£956 million) to sell its stake in an Irish gas project in a move ending its exploration and production in the country.

The oil giant is offloading its 45% stake in the Corrib gas venture to a subsidiary of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

The Canadian investment group will pay 947 million US dollars (£736 million) up-front and additional payments of up to 285 million US dollars (£222 million), depending on gas prices and production.

The deal will see Shell exit its so-called upstream operations in Ireland, with its Shell Aviation joint venture based at Dublin airport set to be its sole remaining operation in the country.

It comes as part of Shell's efforts to offload assets following its takeover of smaller rival BG Group last year.

Shell has sold off more than 20 billion US dollars (£16 billion) of assets since the BG takeover.

Around 100 staff employed by Shell will move over to the new owners of Corrib, with Canadian-based Vermilion Energy - which already owns 18.5% of the gas field - becoming the operating company.

It is thought there are no plans for job losses among affected staff and the offices in County Mayo and Dublin are expected to be retained after the deal, which is set to complete in the second quarter of 2018.

Shell said it will take a 350 million US dollar (£272 million) impairment charge on the Corrib deal.

Shell's share of Corrib Gas output amounts to the equivalent of around 27,000 barrels of oil a day.

Shares in Shell were nearly 2% higher after news of the deal.

The Corrib gas field was first discovered off the north west coast of Ireland in 1996, but it was mired in controversy and the first gas was only processed in late 2015, some 19 years later.

During development, millions were spent policing protests, facilitating workers and securing sites around north Mayo in the face of deep opposition locally and from environmentalists.

Five local men, who opposed a pipeline to an onshore refinery, were jailed for 94 days in 2005 for defying a court order not to protest over the Shell project.

Part of the wider objections included Ireland's once-generous tax regime for oil and gas exploration.

At peak production, Corrib has the potential to meet up to 60% of Ireland's gas needs. It is expected to have a 20-year supply.