Ireland’s Minister for Natural Resources Fergus O’Dowd yesterday announced the details of the 2015 Atlantic Margin Oil and Gas Exploration Licensing Round.
The Round will close in September 2015. It will include all of Ireland’s major Atlantic basins: Porcupine, Goban Spur, Slyne, Erris, Donegal and Rockall. The form of concession on offer will be a two year Licensing Option.
The formal launch of the round follows conclusion of the Government’s review of Ireland’s fiscal terms for oil and gas undertaken by UK oil and gas experts Wood Mackenzie. Speaking at the Our Ocean Wealth conference today in Dublin Castle the Minister stated that “the conclusion of the fiscal terms review allied with the announcement of the detail of 2015 Round provides industry with the certainty necessary to invest in exploration offshore Ireland”.
The 2015 Round aims to build on the success of the previous 2011 Atlantic Margin Licensing Round.
For the 2015 Round the overall Atlantic Margin is divided into three regions. The maximum number of blocks that can be applied for in each region is as follows:
• For the Donegal Basin , Erris Basin and Slyne Basin Region, a limit of four blocks applies, due to the smaller size of these basins;
• For the Porcupine Basin and Goban Spur Basin Region, the approach of the 2011 Round is repeated and applications can be made for up to six blocks; and
• For the Rockall Basin Region, the maximum area that may be applied for in a single application is up to ten blocks.
“The increase in the maximum number of blocks per application to ten in the Rockall Basin is intended to stimulate exploration in a relatively underexplored frontier area of our offshore”.
The main purpose of the Licensing Options will be to define exploration potential and actively promote the acreage. Exploration drilling will not take place under these Licensing Options. Where holders of Licensing Options wish to move forward to seek an exploration licence, the licence on offer will be a Frontier Exploration Licence of a fifteen year duration, with a first phase of three years, and three subsequent phases of four years each.
The Minister also announced the introduction of a number of key initiatives to encourage effective timely exploration, including:
• Data from the Regional Seismic Survey being carried out by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in conjunction with ENI will be made available to the industry for the 2015 Licensing Round (the data will also be made available to the research community); and
• The confidentiality period for all new non-proprietary seismic surveys in the entire Irish offshore area is to be extended to 10 years. This brings Ireland into line with other North Western European jurisdictions
“As I have indicated the Round will close in September 2015, this will allow sufficient time for exploration companies to devote resources and commence work on evaluating data, so that they can make strong applications.”
“Whilst growth in exploration activity increases the chance of commercial discoveries being made it brings no guarantees. What we are witnessing in our offshore is positive and there is a clear forward momentum. Our ultimate aim is to ensure that the true potential of our indigenous oil and gas resources will be realised for the benefit of our people,” the Minister said.
Licensing Options give the holder the first right to an exploration licence over all or part of the area covered by the Option. Licensing Options are are designed to allow companies assess the petroleum potential of an area before deciding whether or not to apply for a full exploration licence.