Providence Resources and Lansdowne Gas and Oil don’t really belong in the same sentence with Exxon or Shell, but it’s the minnows who are pushing the new wave of exploration off the Irish coast.
The big guys are here too. Shell and Statoil are lead names in the controversial Corrib gas field, while Exxon plans to drill the Dunquin prospect off the south west coast next year.
There are 69 exploration areas scattered around the Irish coast, with multiple exploration licences awarded. Here are the companies, local and international, that hope to strike it rich on Irish territory.
The biggest player on the Irish exploration scene, the O’Reilly family- controlled Providence says it has invested more than €600m in exploring Irish territorial waters over the last 30 years. Payback came in October when it announced the discovery of 1.8bn barrels of oil at Barryroe, 43% of which was accessible. Providence has interest in a further 12 sites off the Irish coast, from Antrim to the Barryroe field off Cork, where it shares the wealth with San Leon Energy (30%) and Lansdowne Oil & Gas (20%).
The company is also principal operator of the controversial Dalkey well.
Serica Energy PLC
Serica has been active in Irish waters since 2006, when it was awarded an offshore frontier licence in the Slyne Basin. In 2009 it drilled the Bandon oil discovery well, estimated to contain up to 292m barrels. The same year, Serica was awarded an offshore frontier exploration licence in the Rockall Basin, with a further licence awarded in the same area in 2011.
Royal Dutch Shell
One of the largest and most valuable corporations on earth, Shell’s involvement in the Corrib gas field has been dogged by controversy and claims of human rights abuses. The Corrib field remains the company’s primary interest in Ireland. Shell E&P Ireland Ltd also has interests in three exploration licences off the coast, two in the Slyne Basin; the third in the Rockall Basin.
Lough Allen Natural Gas Company (Langco)
One of the largest natural gas deposits on Irish territory lies beneath Lough Allen, straddling parts of Roscommon, Sligo, Cavan, Fermanagh and Leitrim. A licence was granted to the Lough Allen Natural Gas Company and its partner Tamboran Resources in Feb 2011.
PSE Kinsale Energy Ltd
Producing natural gas off the Old Head of Kinsale since 1978, and operating the Kinsale Head and Ballycotton gas fields. The Kinsale Head field is thought to be nearing the end of its life. The company was acquired by Malaysian oil giant Petronas in 2009.
Lansdowne Oil and Gas plc
A 20% partner in the lucrative Barryroe field, Lansdowne is an independent exploration company that has been listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange since Apr 2006. It also has an interest in the Carrigaline and Galley Head gas discoveries, estimated to contain 81.8bn cubic feet and 86bn cubic feet of gas respectively.
Fastnet Oil and Gas
Another small independent, recently formed by Cove Energy boss John Craven and backed by Raglan Capital. Fastnet is focused on identifying early stage exploration opportunities in offshore Ireland and Africa. It has been awarded four offshore licensing options in the Celtic Sea.
San Leon Energy
A specialist oil and gas company with interests across Europe and North America, the company has a 30% stake in the Barryroe discovery. Following the awarding of further licenses last November, San Leon now has eight assets around the coast.
Chrysaor E&P Ireland Ltd
UK-based Chrysaor began vessel- based geotechnical and environmental survey work at the Porcupine Basin, 200km off the Clare coast, last August. Partnering with Providence Resources and Sosina Exploration at Spanish Point, the company estimates the field may contain the equivalent of 200m barrels of oil.
Antrim Energy Inc
A Canadian-based international oil and gas exploration and production company with assets offshore in the North Sea and Tanzania as well as Ireland. In Oct-Nov 2011, it was awarded a frontier licence option covering over 1,400km² in the Porcupine Basin.
The largest corporation in the world, on 2011 figures, it said in October it planned to drill the Dunquin gas prospect off the west coast next year. The energy giant holds two exploration licenses in the Porcupine basin — 27.5% of Dunquin and a 36% share in Cuchulainn, further west. Total assets cover just over 700,000 acres, 125 miles out to sea.
In 2011, Repsol acquired 25% of the Exxon Mobil and ENI stake in the Dunquin project in the Porcupine basin. Also in 2011, the Spanish company acquired 40% of the Newgrange exploratory project in the South Porcupine/Goban Spur basin to the south of the country. Total net surface area under investigation is 969km².
The Norwegian oil giant’s interest in Ireland consists exclusively of a 36.5% stake in the Corrib gas field. The terminal which will process the gas is under construction, while the pipeline from field to shore is in place.
Europa Oil and Gas
This AIM-listed exploration and production company has assets in Britain and France, as well as two licensing options — Mullen and Kiernan — in the South Porcupine Basin.
Island Oil and Gas
This small independent has an interest in three significant prospects including the Connemara oil field and Schull gas field.
Shares in this company quadrupled overnight when it announced last November that it had found 1bn barrels of oil in the South Porcupine Basin off the Kerry coast. Set up by John Teeling, Petrel has been around for more than 20 years. Previous exploration activity focused on Iraq and Ghana, though the company did drill in Ireland in the 1990s.
Two Seas Oil and Gas
A small company started in 2010, pursuing exploration opportunities in the Netherlands and Britain as well as Ireland, where it jointly owns two blocks in the Porcupine Basin.