THE rewards are huge, but finding oil and gas is a very expensive business, with a well costing up to $1m (€750,000) a day to drill, depending on the depth of the water.
And even if a well is sunk, there's no guarantee anything will be found. Fewer than one in 20 exploratory wells result in a find which is worth developing.
These wells are only drilled after extensive and expensive surveys of the seafloor.
Companies start the process by looking for a source rock -- usually coal or shale. Seabed surveys estimate the thickness and the extent of these source beds, and they calculate how much oil or gas could be there.
Seismic tests,which can cost up to $10m (€7.5m), are then done after which a decision to drill taken. It can cost $100m (€75m) per well, depending on how deep you're drilling.
There have been 150 wells drilled in recent years off our coast, which have resulted in just three commercial gas fields -- Corrib, Kinsale and Seven Heads, off Kinsale. But there's potential out there.
"The current high gas and oil prices help prospects," one industry source said. "The Atlantic is vastly under-explored. Once we get some production (from Corrib) going it could kick-start more work.
"Damage has been done to Ireland's reputation (because of the delays in Corrib). In the North Sea, a project the size of Corrib would have been brought ashore in five years."