Oil majors secure Irish exploration options despite slump
Oil majors including ExxonMobil, BP and Statoil have all taken a slice of new exploration licensing options that have been issued by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
Their interest in potential offshore Atlantic drilling comes at a time when oil companies around the world are rapidly reining in exploration budgets due to the slump in oil prices.
But the applications for the licensing round were made by a deadline of September last year, when the price of Brent crude was still hovering around $50 a barrel. Yesterday, it was trading at just over $30.
The deep waters in Ireland's Atlantic waters make drilling extremely risky and expensive. While a fortune has been spent drilling over 200 oil and gas exploratory wells around Ireland's coast over the past number of decades, there have only been two major commercial finds, both of them gas - Kinsale and Corrib.
In 2013, ExxonMobil initiated a $160m drilling programme in Ireland's Porcupine Basin, about 200km offshore. But well results were ultimately disappointing.
Still, the Department received the largest ever number of applications for licensing options in its latest offer round. There were 43 applications, with 14 options granted in the Atlantic Margin Licensing Round.
The options are focused on the southern Porcupine Basin, where a number of applications included commitments to acquire new seismic data this year.
Eight companies secured the options. They are Italy's Eni; AIM-listed Europa; ExxonMobil; Canada-based Nexen, which is owned by China's CNOOC; Scotia; Statoil; and Australia's Woodside. BP will partner with Eni.