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IRELAND is on the brink of an oil discovery off the Cork coast that could boost the struggling economy.

The well -- being developed by Providence Resources -- has shown a potential yield of 2,000 barrels of oil per day.

This is enough to make developing the well -- located almost 50km off the Cork coast -- commercially viable given the soaring price of crude on world markets.

While small by Middle Eastern or North Sea standards, the discovery is sizeable enough to give Ireland its first oil boom -- and could, sources say, have a significant spin-off benefit for the overall Irish economy.

The oil find could further guarantee the future of the Whitegate Oil Refinery in east Cork -- and potentially help lower petrol prices in the medium-long term for motorists.

Outline details of the Barryroe find were confirmed in February -- but it is understood that test drilling has further enhanced the commercial viability of the well.

Oil has been discovered several times before off the Irish coast. However, the finds by giant exploration firms Marathon and Esso were found to yield far less than the daily target of 1,500-1,800 barrels of quality crude required to make developing the wells profitable.

Key test drills over the past two months have all, it is understood, shown a flow of 2,000 barrels per day of oil.

The oil in question has been classified as 'light but waxy crude' -- of sufficient quality to justify construction of an extraction rig.

Exploration officials have hinted that, if the oil flow continues at this rate in further test drills, the oil itself could be commercially harvested within two years.

Providence Resources declined to comment further than to confirm that test drilling continues at the Barryroe site.

The firm stressed that an update on the situation would be issued in due course.

However, the stock market has endorsed the belief that Providence has discovered Ireland's first commercial oil field.

Shares in the firm have soared to €4.65 -- a hike of 180pc since early 2011.

Providence now controls 80pc of the Barryroe field -- and will be hoping that it delivers comparable benefits to Ireland's major gas well, the Kinsale Field, located a short distance up the coast.

Providence boss Tony O'Reilly Jnr said that the potential of the Barryroe field for Ireland is very exciting.

"While our shareholders are paramount in our mind, we also hope that our success will be a catalyst for investment in Ireland Inc," he said.

The Department of Finance takes a 25pc share of any oil or gas revenues -- and Barryroe would offer the greatest such tax yield since the Kinsale Gas Field was discovered in the early 1970s.