West coast oil discovery is first in 30 years
OIL has been found off the west coast for the first time in over 30 years, a discovery which could spark a new rush of exploration drilling.
The discovery was made by a small UK company Serica Energy, which was drilling for gas.
The find was made 100km off the west coast, it emerged yesterday.
Shares in the small exploration company Serica Energy soared by 18pc on the London Stock Market after news of the discovery broke.
Serica chief Paul Ellis said that while it was too early to say how much oil had been found, the company now intended to carry out new site surveys to choose a location for a follow-up well next year.
The drilling, which cost the company around $50m (€36m), was paid for under an agreement with Serica's new partner, the German company RWE. In return for paying the cost of the well the German's secured a 50pc stake in the find, with Serica holding the balance.
Serica started drilling well 27/4-1, dubbed the Bandon prospect, on May 11 with the original intention of looking for gas field similar to Shell's Corrib field just 40km to the north. But while the well failed to discover any gas, it did encounter high quality light oil and the well was "sidetracked" into this formation to collect as much information as possible. "We did not expect this and had to re-configure the well during drilling," Mr Ellis said, adding that it has officially been classified as an oil discovery.
He said the company was not willing to reveal much more detail as there is a lot of open acreage, which is blocks covering similar territory that have yet to be licensed, in the area -
The discovery is likely to re-awaken interest in oil exploration off the west coast, including in these areas which are not currently under licence.
"This is the first oil discovery west of Ireland for nearly 30 years," Mr Ellis said, adding that its 600 sq km licence area contains several prospects which will now be evaluated as potential drilling targets.
"Although much more work needs to be done before the commercial potential of the discovery and the rest of the licence can be established, the Bandon oil discovery could mark the beginning of an exciting phase of Irish exploration," he said.
He said the volume of oil in place could not be estimated with certainty and that considerable technical work remains to be done. "But I am optimistic that we will be back here next year, the results are encouraging." Serica will use existing seismic data to remap the area and come up with new drilling locations, he explained.
In the meantime, Mr Ellis said there are still two further similar gas prospects on the licence and these may also be tested later.
The licence covers blocks 27/4 and 27/9 as well as part of block 27/5 in the Slyne Basin off the west coast. The licence was granted in December 2006 for a maximum term of 15 years.
The well was drilled by the Ocean Guardian semi-submersible drilling rig to a total depth of 6,233 feet, with the rig now preparing to plug and abandon the well.