Oil and gas firms assured they can keep on drilling
A senior official has assured fossil fuel industry bosses they can keep exploring for gas, telling them Ireland is "under-explored" and needs "several more Corribs to be discovered".
The assurances were given at a conference hosted by the oil and gas industry with the backing of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.
Minister for Natural Resources Seán Canney told the 300 delegates a secure gas supply was "a priority" for the department.
He referenced the announcement by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the United Nations last month that Ireland was going to phase out oil and gas exploration and said he would produce policy principles within days to clarify what that meant for both the holders of existing oil and gas exploration licences and future applicants.
But he said he recognised the important investments the industry had made in Ireland, and he stressed: "Clearly gas remains an important transition fuel.
"There remains an imperative for secure supply of natural gas to the State to support our industries, to heat our homes and to support our way of life," he said.
He was followed by the head of the technical team in the Department's Petroleum Affairs Division (PAD), Clare Morgan, who evaluates licence applications, and who said Ireland was "falling short in terms of drilling" compared to our European neighbours.
"It's a bit of a sad picture in terms of the density of well drilling in recent years," she said. "We need several more Corribs to be discovered."
Ms Morgan said the PAD had put a lot of emphasis over the last year in promoting its work at national events, including the Young Scientists competition and in universities.
"We're targeting a younger generation. We're trying to inform them about the benefits of exploration," she said.
She referred to the Taoiseach's remarks to the UN as the "elephant in the room" before adding: "There is still an appetite for exploration.
"I hope you have abundant gas deposits out there," she told the delegates.
Under the Government's Climate Action Plan, Ireland is meant to be carbon neutral by 2050 which will require the phase-out of fossil fuels but the Climate Action Advisory Council has said gas could be used as a transition fuel.
It said, however, that gas use should be accompanied by carbon capture technologies and kept under review.
Asked afterwards how the speeches were compatible with the aims of carbon neutrality, Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton referred to the advisory council's backing of continued gas use.
Minister Canney said the policy principles to be produced shortly would address the question of how long the transition period would be.