The green light has been given for a major seismic survey off Ireland's Atlantic coast to assess the true potential for oil and gas resources.
The 20 million euro analysis will cover 18,000km from Rockall and Hatton basins off the north-west to the Southern Porcupine off the south-west.
Fergus O'Dowd, junior minister responsible for natural resources, granted approval for the 2D survey.
"At a cost of 20 million euro this is is by far the largest regional seismic survey acquired in the Irish offshore, and will provide a regional grid of high-quality seismic data over Ireland's frontier basins," he said.
Mr O'Dowd said the plan would fill data gaps off the Atlantic coast.
"Most importantly, the survey should go a long way towards revealing the true oil and gas potential of Ireland's frontier basins," he said.
"The data should allow resource potential to be predicted with much greater confidence and enable both the industry and the Government to adequately evaluate future licensing opportunities."
The survey will be undertaken by ENI Ireland BV in conjunction with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in Atlantic waters of the Irish-designated continental shelf.
The vessel BGP Explorer operating from Killybegs, Co Donegal will conduct the analysis over 145 days. The first reports from the survey are expected in 2014.
The cost is being jointly met by the department and interested industry.