Europa in talks with potential partners for Inishkea gas prospect near Corrib

Oil and gas explorer speaking to ‘half a dozen’ potential partners

Europa Oil & Gas, a UK and Ireland-focused explorer, is currently in talks with “half a dozen” potential partners to progress its Inishkea gas prospect near the Corrib field off the cost of Co Mayo, according to company chairman Brian O’Cathain.

Mr O’Cathain, who ran the Irish operations of Enterprise Oil when it discovered the Corrib field in 1996, said the company has been able to start talks after the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications last month extended first-phase work on the Inishkea licence to January 2024.He estimates that it will cost between €35 million and €40 million to drill an exploration well at the field.

“The discussions with potential partners are at a very early stage,” Mr O’Cathain told The Irish Times. “No one was going to talk to us until they knew about the extension of the first phase of the licence.”

Europa had previously found a partner in a “national oil company from the Far East” in 2019 to help develop the project, according to the chairman. However, that group subsequently pulled out amid concerns over the State’s offshore exploration policy. The Government decided early last year to ban new oil and gas exploration licences.

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Mr O’Cathain said he hopes to have reached a deal with a new partner or a broader consortium by the end of the third quarter of next year. This would allow Europa to seek approval from the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications to go into the second phase of the licence, which would involve carrying out a site survey and drilling an exploration well.

Earlier this week Mr O’Cathain told Europa investors at its annual general meeting that Inishkea could play a “key role” in Ireland’s transition to green energy.

“Gas from the Corrib field, adjacent to the Inishkea prospect, is one of the lowest carbon-intensity gases in Europe, much lower than long distance pipeline gas from Norway, the UK or the Russian gas previously piped to Europe,” he said. “Given that Ireland will continue to require gas into the foreseeable future, having recently agreed plans to build new gas-powered electricity plants, it makes sense to keep this potentially valuable source of indigenous gas available.”

Corrib currently supplies about 30 per cent of the State’s gas needs, but is expected to run out of gas early in the 2030s.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times