A record number of licencing options for offshore exploration have been received by the Government despite the drop in the price of oil.
Some 43 applications were received and 14 licencing options were approved for the southern Porcupine Basin, an area off the southwest coast.
A licencing option gives companies two years to carry out a programme and make a decision on whether to take out a full licence. The companies then have a further three years to drill an exploration well.
The Irish Offshore Operators' Association welcomed the interest which they said was not a surprise despite the low price of a barrel of oil. Chairman Pat Shannon said exploration companies now had better seismic data and were encouraged by successful finds off the Newfoundland coast.
Prof Shannon said big discoveries had been made in the Flemish Pass Basin off Newfoundland which offered encouragement to oil and gas exploration companies seeking to drill in Irish waters.
“If you roll back through geological history and you go back 60 to 100 million years ago, those sedimentary basins were forming at the same time as the Irish sedimentary basins and they are very close together.”
The offer of awards involves Eni, Europa, ExxonMobil, Nexen, Scotia, Statoil and Woodside as Operators, along with BP who will partner with Eni.