The exploratory drilling for oil and gas off the Co Clare coast has moved a step closer with the rig, the Blackford Dolphin, arriving in Belfast in recent days.
Cairn Energy is leading the drill programme in the field that has an estimated recoverable resource of between 100 and 200m barrels of oil equivalent.
Exploratory drilling of the resource is due to take place in the second quarter of this year.
There are a number of companies involved in the drilling venture, with Cairn having a 38% shareholding, Providence 32%, Chrysaor 26%, and Sosina 4%.
A discovery well was drilled at the Spanish Point site in 1981 and the partners are hoping that advances in technology will make the site commercially viable for oil and gas.
The undeveloped Spanish Point gas condensate and Burren oil discoveries, and six adjacent licensing option blocks cover an acreage of 2,753km2.
Cairn Energy is one of Europe’s leading independent oil and gas exploration and development companies and is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
A spokesman for Cairn Energy said yesterday: “We are operating offshore Ireland at the invitation of the Government and prior to operations commencing they will be subject to review and approval by the Irish authorities.
“It is important to remember that exploration of hydrocarbons does not guarantee a hydrocarbon find nor a discovery which is commercially viable to develop.
“As with our operations globally the company’s first priority is safety — both in terms of safeguarding people and the environment.
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