Proposed ban on oil exploration greeted with ‘trepidation’

Taoiseach told the UN that the Republic intended banning oil exploration in its Atlantic territorial waters

None of the companies exploring for oil and gas in Irish waters rated the industry’s prospects as “extremely favourable” over the next two years. Photograph:  Shell E&P Ireland Limited

None of the companies exploring for oil and gas in Irish waters rated the industry’s prospects as “extremely favourable” over the next two years. Photograph: Shell E&P Ireland Limited

 

Oil and gas companies have greeted Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s proposed ban on exploration in Irish waters with “trepidation”, a new report says.

Mr Varadkar told the UN recently that the Republic intended banning oil exploration in its Atlantic territorial waters, but would allow the search for gas to continue.

However, as both are found in the same reservoirs, the oil and gas industry saw the proposal as a ban on all fossil fuel exploration.

A survey of the Irish oil and gas industry by accountants PWC, published on Tuesday, says that the sector met Mr Varadkar’s statement with “trepidation”.

The report points out that Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton included fossil fuels in a review of the Republic’s energy security that he has commissioned.

None of the companies exploring for oil and gas in Irish waters rated the industry’s prospects as “extremely favourable” over the next two years while just 17 per cent thought they were a moderate “fairly favourable”.

Just two finds in Irish waters, the Corrib Field off Mayo and the Kinsale gas reservoir off Cork, have turned out to be commercial.

Providence Resources has identified a reservoir, Barryroe, also off the Cork coast, that could yield almost 350 million barrels of oil.

Companies licensed to explore for fossil fuels in the Republic’s territory include Irish business Providence and multinationals such as Exxon, Total and ENI.

Many of those surveyed by the accountants were unhappy with the Republic’s licensing and regulation systems, which they argued should be streamlined.

“Despite the lack of recent commercial discoveries, a strong level of industry interest still exists in the exploration of Irish waters, despite a more unfavourable outlook for the industry in Ireland than in prior years,” the report says.