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Lloyds List: Ireland to open up frontier

Published: Sep 20, 2007

IRELAND’s new energy minister, Eamon Ryan, is about to launch the country’s latest frontier exploration licensing round, covering the Porcupine basin, writes Martyn Wingrove.

Oil companies will have until December 18 to submit their tenders for hydrocarbon exploration licences and blocks in the Atlantic Ocean, south west of Ireland.

Analysts said the Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources will open up 229 blocks and three part blocks in this year’s round, 145 of these in the southern part of the Porcupine basin and the rest in the northern area.

The round has been delayed for a year due to a general election in Ireland and as Mr Ryan got himself established in the energy role.

The area made available will be in quadrants 35, 44 and 53, and there will be blocks included in surrounding quadrants.

‘It is a harsh environment area with frontier licence terms, which have been reduced to 16 years,’ said Andrew Vinall, an executive director with consultants Hannon Westwood. ‘There are 229 blocks available in water depths from 300 m to more than 2,000 m.’

Oil companies will be able to tender for six blocks in the south and three in the northern part of the basin in each licence, and will then be committed to shooting new seismic surveys.

There are geological plays in five levels in the Porcupine basin, from the carboniferous to the tertiary. To date, the only identified potentially commercial oil discovery is Connemara, which Island Oil and Gas is evaluating for a future development.

Other oil companies working in the basin include ExxonMobil, Shell, Italy’s Eni and Irish independent, Providence Resources.

‘There is very little 3D seismic data and only poor quality 2D data taken from the basin,’ Mr Vinall said. ‘But there are structural plays in the Jurassic, where the key risk is reservoir distribution and quality and some Tertiary stratigraphic plays,’

Hannon Westwood has studied the Atlantic margins of Ireland for the energy department and its Petroleum Affairs Division.

‘We have come up with 160 undrilled prospects, of which some 85 are in the Porcupine basin and more than 50 more leads, defined by seismic surveys and data gathered by previous licencees,’ Mr Vinall said.

‘These prospects could have total unrisked potential of 35bn barrels of oil equivalent with 24bn boe in the Porcupine basin.’

Drilling activity could soon increase with possibly five high impact wells set to be drilled off western Ireland next year, including two for Shell, two by Eni and perhaps one by Providence on the Spanish Point prospect, near Connemara.

Most of the discoveries made off the western Irish coast have been gas prone and remote. Shell is developing the first gas field in the area with a pipeline linking the Corrib field to a terminal at Bellanaboy Bridge, near Dooncarton.

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