THE property boom might be over, but Ireland could be on the verge of an oil and gas boom to rival the concrete economy of the last tenyears.
According to the Petroleum Affairs Division of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, there is at least 10 billion barrels of oil lying off the west coast Ireland - which has a current value of €450bn (€50 a barrel).
Added to gas supplies, energy exports have the potential to transform Ireland into a new Middle East.
"A recent regional assessment estimated resources in the Porcupine and Rockall Basins at ten billion barrels of oil. Estimates are based on comparisons with the geology of other regions with proven success," explained Helen Chandler, spokesperson for the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.
In a recently publishedscientific report by thePetroleum Affairs Division,entitled Atlantic Ireland, it stated: "The potential shows volumes of over 130 billion barrels of oil and 50 trillion cubic feet of gas."
Most of these deposits have been pinpointed along anunderwater ridge known as the Atlantic Margin which runs parallel to the west coast of Ireland in a more or less straight line before arcing off towards Scotland and the North Sea onwards towardsScandinavia.
To date, the Atlantic Ridge hasn't let anyone down. The Dunquin gas field which is 200km off the coast of Kerry contains an astonishing 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 4,130 million barrels of oil.
Put into context, this alone would meet our gas needs - at present consumption levels - for the next 62 years.
The Dunquin field is being principally developed by Exxon Mobil: "With Dunquin we are planning to drill wells next year and 2009. It is deep water, and as a rule of thumb, it takes about five years to get a field into production, so we are looking at 2013 to 2015.
"The gas will be brought ashore in a pipeline and the oil tankered away," explained John O'Sullivan, Exploration Manager with ProvidenceResources, who have a stake in Dunquin and fields off the coast of Clare.
Further up the coast is the Spanish Point field, which is 200km off the coast of Clare. The field has known reserves of one and a quarter trillion cubic feet of gas and 206million barrels of oil, and is valued at €19.6bn.
"At Spanish Point we are looking at drilling wells next year and looking at production in that field in 2011,"explained John O'Sullivan.
Further North lies Corrib, County Mayo, which has an estimated value of anywhere between €8bn to €87bn. The field, which has been the scene of much controversy, is being developed by Shell, Marathon and Statoil which is owned by the Norwegian government.
Inland lies the Lough Allen basin - an area which was largely famous as a bog.
But now the area has been notionally valued at €74.4bn and contains 9.4 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.5 billionbarrels of oil.
The vast field lies beneath Lough Allen and straddles Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo.
"The answer to a large part of our security of supply could be in the North West of Ireland. It has the potential to turn from a gas importer to a gas exporter," explains Tom Davitt, CEO of Finavera, who are planning to develop the field in the near future (No date yet).
At present, nine new Frontier Exploration Licences and five Petroleum Prospecting Licences are outstanding for areas off the Donegal coast.
But what will Ireland make from all this oil and gas? Taxes, is the answer.
"There is no profit sharing procedures, the State take is obtained through the taxregime. In the case ofpetroleum income, the rate is 25 per cent compared to the general 12.5 per cent tax.
"A review of the licensing terms including the tax rates has recently been completed and will be considered by the Government in the nearfuture," explained Helen Chandler of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.
Currently Ireland imports 85 per cent of its energy needs and is the last port of call in a very long pipeline that extends all the way from Russia across Western Europe, Britain and finally Ireland.