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Make oil prospects pay

Over the decades, oil exploration in Irish waters resulted in many disappointments.

But it also resulted in the accumulation of much knowledge.

That knowledge was collected, preserved, and in time reinterpreted in the light of technological advance on a staggering scale. It has made it possible for oil companies to drill off our south-west coast, in stormy waters far from land and at daunting depths. Ultimately it has made it possible for the Petrel company to announce a large find there, and potentially a vastly profitable one.

Petrel is not alone. Another company, Providence, is prospecting in the same area and could make up to nine discoveries in the next year.

Providence is spending €500m on the project, but the potential rewards far exceed the expenditure. With luck, Ireland could profit to the tune of billions. With a lot of luck, we could end our energy dependency and ensure our national security in a manner never known in the past.

But such brilliant prospects will not be realised unless Irish leaders display a wisdom little seen in recent times. It is shocking that the Corrib gas field has not yet been exploited. Objections to drilling off the Dublin coast are misguided. It needs only political will and good sense to develop a profitable (and safe) industry. Provided, of course, that we find the oil.

Irish Independent