Ireland Opens New Oil, Gas Licensing Round for Rockall Basin

Minister Sean Power has announced the opening of the 2009 Rockall Licensing Round and has published the details of the Round.

Under the 2009 Rockall Licensing Round, oil and gas exploration companies will be invited to apply for new Frontier Exploration Licenses in the Rockall Basin. The acreage on offer in the Rockall Basin to the west of Ireland covers unlicensed blocks in an area of approximately 117,200 square kilometers.

Commenting on Ireland's very high dependence on imported oil and gas, Minister Power said, "that finding and producing our indigenous oil and gas is critical to strengthening Ireland's security of energy supply and reducing our reliance on imported fuels. The Rockall Basin is relatively underexplored and this Licensing Round represents an exciting new opportunity for the exploration industry to invest in exploration offshore Ireland."

Minister Power acknowledged that "exploration in remote deep water areas such as the Rockall Basin is difficult and costly. But the potential rewards are also very high. Accordingly, the new tax regime introduced in 2007 will apply in the case of licenses granted under the 2009 Round, which means that in the case of more profitable fields a tax rate of 40% would apply."

Minister Power added that "in recent years there has been an upswing in the level of investment in exploration for oil and gas offshore Ireland," and that he is "confident that the industry will react positively to the opening of the Rockall Basin for further exploration opportunities."

In advance of decisions on the award of licenses, a comprehensive Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the region is being undertaken by external environmental experts ERT and Aqua Fact, and the post-consultation report will be available shortly. The SEA will inform the industry of the environmental characteristics and sensitivities of the Basin, and will make recommendations to the Minister as to how these should be addressed.

Applications for Frontier Exploration Licenses covering blocks in the Round may be submitted up to noon on April 22, 2009. The terms for the Round provide that applications may be made for a minimum of two blocks and for a maximum of eight blocks.