Minister Conor Lenihan announced details of new exploration opportunities in Irish waters – the 2011 Atlantic Margin Licensing Round.
The Minister also announced details of a new joint Ireland/Newfoundland-Labrador research project involving a plate reconstruction of the North Atlantic.
The 2011 Atlantic Margin Licensing Round is an invitation for oil and gas exploration companies to apply for new authorizations in Ireland's Atlantic Margin.
This round is different from previous licensing Rounds and is designed to boost the level of exploration activity off the Irish coast.
Minister Lenihan stated, "Having considered the lessons to be learned from recent licensing rounds and having consulted with industry, I believe it is time for Ireland to take a new approach to attracting exploration investment to the Atlantic margin. I am proposing a licensing initiative that is simple, yet innovative.
"It is an initiative with the clear objective of significantly increasing the level of exploration activity in the Irish offshore. It is an initiative that will fit different company sizes and corporate strategies. As a result, it should be of real interest to the industry at large, contractors included."
It opens up Ireland's entire Atlantic – the Atlantic Margin - seabed for exploration (apart from existing licensed areas) rather than specific basins (or blocks).
In the past 15-year licenses were granted but they required that a significant investment had to be made within the first phase of the license (usually four years). In this Round, two year Licensing Options will be on offer to allow exploration companies assess the potential of the area and therefore do not require a large up-front cash investment. A fifteen year license can then be secured if desired, provided an appropriate work program is agreed.
In order to encourage the acquisition of new seismic data by seismic acquisition contractors, Minister Lenihan had decided to extend the confidentiality period that will apply to new acquisition in the Licensing Round area, from 7 to 10 years.
This round will be the largest licensing round to date, covering an area of just over a quarter of a million square kilometers, comprising 996 full blocks and 58 part blocks. The area on offer extends from about 30-380 km from shore with water depths typically ranging from 200m, or less, to over 3000m.
Trans Atlantic Research Initiative
Minister Lenihan also announced details of a new trans-Atlantic research corroboration involving a range of Irish and Newfoundland-Labrador research institutes and private enterprise.
This two-year research project will use sophisticated computer modeling software to generate plate reconstruction models showing Irish and Canadian sedimentary basins in their original positions from millions of years ago when Ireland and Canada were near neighbors. By doing this we can identify areas in Ireland with similar geology that might be rich in petroleum too.
Irish Atlantic waters have traditionally been inhospitable areas for petroleum exploration. Circa 150 wells have been drilled in the last 30 years with a less than 1 in 30 success ratio (discovery of commercial fields).
Yet, it is estimated that the area is likely to be rich in petroleum reserves. There are potential reserves of 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent (oil or gas) in the Irish Atlantic Margin.
Minister Lenihan said, "I believe that offering Licensing Options, on the basis I have outlined, will attract an increased interest in exploration offshore Ireland and I look forward to the receipt of a good number of quality applications when the Round closes on the May 31st of next year."
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