DUBLIN, Ireland – Pat Rabbitte, Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, has awarded 13 new offshore licensing options to 12 companies under the country’s 2011 Atlantic Margin Licensing Round.
Speaking at a petroleum research conference in Dublin, Rabbitte said a total of 15 applications had been submitted.
The licensing options are for a two-year period, during which time the licensees must complete an agreed work program. These can then be converted to Frontier Exploration licenses, which carry a 12-year term, divided into four three-year phases, with a well commitment at the end of the first phase.
The companies awarded licenses include new entrants to Ireland, and others already active in the Irish offshore. The seven new companies offered acreage are Antrim Energy, Bluestack Energy, Europa Oil & Gas, First Oil Expro, Petrel Resources, Repsol Exploration, and Two Seas Oil & Gas.
Existing players are Providence Resources, Chrysaor, Serica Energy, Sosina Exploration and San Leon Energy.
Rabbitte said: “Ireland needs to see an increase in exploration activity and exploration drilling in particular, if the petroleum potential of our offshore is to be realized.
“Ireland must continue to communicate the message to international exploration companies that Ireland is open for business and that the Irish offshore has real potential.”
The total area covered by the applications was just more than 15,000 sq km (5,791 sq mi), in water depths ranging from less than 200 m (656 ft) to more than 2,500 m (8,202 ft).
The awards comprise one licensing option in the Rockall basin, two in the Slyne basin, nine in the Porcupine basin and one in the Goban Spur basin.
Total applications and the number of proposed awards are the highest of any Irish Frontier Round since the process started in 1994.
Rabbitte said that The ‘Petroleum Systems Analysis of the Rockall and Porcupine Basins Offshore Ireland’ study, published in 2006, would be made available free of charge to help promote exploration in these areas.
Operators should also benefit from the completion, next year of the transatlantic Plate Reconstruction Project, co-funded by the Canadian Government of Newfoundland Labrador and the joint Irish Government-Industry Petroleum Infrastructure Program.
Rabbitte added that he would welcome the industry’s views with regard to the following core issues:
• How to encourage an increase in drilling and data acquisition levels offshore Ireland
• How to continue to encourage the take up of exploration licenses and how to encourage more new entrants
• How to encourage exploration companies to focus their attention more broadly in terms of Ireland’s deeper water basins
• How to fill data gaps that present a barrier to companies considering applying for exploration authorizations over large areas.
“I am open to considering changes in the regulatory framework that would encourage a greater focus by both contractors and exploration companies on under-explored areas of the Irish offshore,” he said.
Among the award winners, Providence will operate licensing options in all four basins covering around 5,000 sq km (1,930 sq mi), in water depths from 400-3,000 m (1,312-9,842 ft).
CEO Tony O’Reilly said: “Our studies completed to date indicate a number of structures with significant potential…Providence now holds license interests in eight distinct basins offshore Ireland, including our first license in the Slyne Trough offsetting the Corrib gas field as well as additional acreage adjacent to our Spanish Point gas condensate discovery.”
Petrel Resources was awarded two licensing options in the Porcupine basin, extending over a total area of 1,405 sq km (542 sq mi). These relate to blocks 35/23, 35/24, the key parts of 35/25, 45/6, 45/11, 44/15 and 45/16.
David Horgan, managing director said: “We focused on the prospective Porcupine basin, of medium water depth (1,500 m/4,921 ft). The petroleum system is proven, water depth moderate, title secure and fiscal terms attractive.”
San Leon Energy picked up licensing option 11/13, covering 986 sq km (380 sq mi) and four blocks in the Slyne basin.
The permit is adjacent to the company’s current FEL 4/06 Slyne license, where San Leon and partner Lundin Petroleum acquired 300 sq km (116 sq mi) of 3D seismic data in August 2010.
That data has since been interpreted and both parties have engaged First Energy Capital to market the mapped Inishmore prospect to potential farminees.
The full list of awards is as follows: