Ireland’s Atlantic basins harbor the potential for major oil and gas discoveries in water depths ranging from 150 to more than 2,500 meters, according to the country’s Energy and Natural Resources office.
Even so, exploration activity in the Irish offshore has been sporadic over the past four decades, according to Natural Resources Minister Fergus O’Dowd.
He noted recently that the last commercial discovery was in 1996 at the Corrib gas field, a Jurassic-age field about 83 kilometers off west Ireland’s County Mayo coast.
Only 158 exploration wells have been drilled offshore Ireland to date, but there’s an ongoing push to accelerate exploratory drilling and score some respectable production.
For a country wholly dependent on imported oil, any commercial discovery – large or small – will be significant.
Potential, But No Guarantees
O’Dowd was a major presence among the group of Ireland notables promoting the area’s oil and gas potential at the 2014 AAPG confab in Houston.
He emphasized that the Irish hydrocarbon exploration sector faces considerable headwinds owing to such close proximity to the North Sea, where companies have accomplished much successful drilling. Not surprisingly, the operators continue returning to this proven productive territory.
The models created from joint Canadian/Irish reconstruction of the geology of the Atlantic are said to show the possibility of regional world class Upper and Lower Jurassic source rocks, the Irish government office noted.
Source rock modeling, prospect evaluation and analog basin review show a yet-to-find potential of at least 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
There are no guarantees when it comes to oil and gas exploration, though.
Just ask Providence Resources Plc (PRP).
In 2012, the company announced that its Barryroe oil field in the North Celtic Sea Basin, about 40 miles off the Cork Coast in southwest Ireland, might hold as many as 1.6 billion barrels, according to a Bloomberg report, July 2014.
Providence has yet to find a partner to develop Barryroe. As a result, production has been delayed and its stock price has dropped precipitously.
The company has drilled only one appraisal well, and it may take additional evidence to draw in partners.
Even so, PRP CEO Tony O’Reilly said recently that they feel confident about being able to get a deal done, Bloomberg noted.
New Data Available
Newly available seismic data likely will be a key element to encourage operators to jump onto the exploration bandwagon promoted by the Ireland Energy and Natural Resources office.
Considerable 2-D seismic data acquisition activity kicked off in 2013, including a regional 2-D program.
The year 2013 was one of the most active years in Ireland in terms of 2-D and 3-D seismic, according to Clare Morgan, consulting geophysicist with the Energy and Natural Resources office.
Pre-STM data from 2013 will be available for purchase at the start of September, according to the agency. It is anticipated that the 2014 data can be purchased from the end of the first quarter 2015.
O’Dowd has announced details of the 2015 Atlantic Margin Oil and Gas Exploration Licensing Round, which will close in September 2015. He noted this will allow sufficient time for exploration companies to devote resources and commence work on evaluating data so they can make strong applications.
The licensing round will include all of Ireland’s major Atlantic basins:
- Globan Spur
The main purpose for the licensing options will be to define exploration potential and actively promote the acreage. Exploration drilling will not occur under these options.
Once a company holding a licensing option decides to move to obtain an exploration license, the offered license will be a frontier exploration license of 15 years’ duration. It will have an initial phase of three years with three subsequent phases of four years each.