Energy policy was not the reason Barryroe offshore permit was refused – Environment Department

On Friday, Barryroe Offshore Energy issued a stock market notice saying its application for a permit to pursue its key exploration in an area 50km off the south-west coast of Ireland had been turned down

Donal O'Donovan

Wider policy issues, including moves to slash dependence on fossil fuels, played no role in the decision to reject an exploration permit for Barryroe Offshore Energy, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan’s department has said.

On Friday, Barryroe Offshore Energy, formerly Providence Resources, issued a stock market notice saying it had been informed that the minister was turning down its application for a permit to pursue its key exploration prospect in the SEL1/11 licence area 50km off the south-west coast of Ireland. The permit area is home to the Barryroe undersea prospect, discovered in 2012, and tipped by the company to hold potentially billions of euro worth of oil and gas.

Despite that promise Barryroe has struggled to turn the prospect into a reality and to secure financial backing to develop its plans.

Barryroe Offshore had an 80pc stake in the prospect licence alongside partner Lansdowne Oil & Gas.

Its statement on Friday Barryroe said it had been informed by letter that the partners had no rights over SEL1/11 after the minister found the applicant did not meet the criteria necessary to satisfy the terms of the legislation.

Barryroe said the minister was not satisfied with the financial capability of the applicants. This assessment has concluded that from a technical perspective the Barryroe permit application was satisfactory, Barryroe said.

The company said it is considering its response to the letter. That could include a legal challenge to the minister’s decision, including a potential judicial review.

A judicial review can only challenge aspects of the decision-making process, not the decision itself.

The department said in a statement to the Irish Independent that its decision followed extensive engagement over several years between the applicants and its Geoscience Regulation Office in relation to the application.

“The assessment showed that the application did not meet the criteria necessary to satisfy the terms of the legislation and associated guidance. This includes the technical competence of the applicant and the financial resources available to it in order to undertake the work programme and any other commitments pursuant to the relevant petroleum authorisation,” it said.

The department said the minister does not comment on individual regulatory decisions but it did say the decision in the Barryroe case was not linked to wider energy policies.

“It should be noted that broader policy issues relating to, for example, the phasing out of fossil fuels or our security of energy supply, did not form part of the assessment process. As set out in the Programme for Government, holders of existing petroleum authorisations – such as the applicants in this case – were entitled to apply to progress to the next stage of the regulatory process,” the statement said.

Shares in Barryroe Offshore are set to come under intense pressure today. The Euronext Dublin listed company is in a process of raising €20m from shareholders to bolster its financial standing after securing a €40m facility last year from shareholders led by billionaire Larry Goodman.

The firm’s market capitalisation had fallen to €45m when the market closed before Friday’s update – around 10pc of its value back in 2012 after the Barryroe find.