However, the ultimate spend on exploration and related activities hinges on the success rate of drilling programmes; the fiscal regime for energy firms; and reform of the planning system.
The cost of exploring, access to funding and obtaining licences are all seen as big challenges facing the sector.
The Government has consistently highlighted the potential of the energy sector to create jobs and much needed tax revenues. Moreover, the country is heavily reliant on energy imports.
“Exploration begins again every decade. Ireland has experienced 40 years of near-misses. We can do nothing about past mistakes. But we can market our strengths and manage our weaknesses.
“The targets are not world class. They are risky. But with new thinking and vision they will work. We must seize the opportunity without delay,” said David Horgan, director, Petrel Resources, at the publication of the PwC survey.
Other key findings in the survey include over half (54%) of survey participants rated the overall outlook for the Irish oil and gas sector to be favourable. However, 13% were unfavourable in their outlook for the sector. An overwhelming majority (80%) are optimistic about the level of petroleum yet to be discovered in Ireland, of which a quarter (28%) expressed a high level of optimism, said PwC.
Respondents felt that the events at Corrib have had a major impact on the development of the industry to date, with 90% of respondents saying that it has done serious or significant damage to the international reputation of the Irish oil and gas industry. However, the majority (82%) felt that the damage caused can ultimately be repaired.
A high degree of interest was expressed in the upcoming licensing round. Approximately 36% said that they will definitely be participating, with 32% undecided. Greatest interest is in the North and South Porcupine Basins and in the Rockall Basin.