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Written Answers. - Offshore Exploration.

Wednesday, 6 February 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 4

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 93. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  the number of recent substantial or commercial discoveries of oil, gas or ores; the future intention to exploit the commercial viability of such projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3914/02]

 94. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  the degree to which energy exploration indicate a potential to meet oil or gas requirements in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3915/02]

 95. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  if new oil or gas explorations are planned on land or offshore in the foreseeable future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3916/02]

 96. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  if other noticeable finds have been recorded in the course of ongoing oil, gas or other exploration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3917/02]

 97. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  if there have been discoveries of gold, silver or precious ores in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3918/02]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Fahey): Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 to 97, inclusive, together.

I would refer the Deputy to my replies to Questions 58, 60 and 65 on this subject on Thursday 11 October 2001, ref no. 23588/01, 23590/01 and 23595/01, and to Question 29311/01 on Wednesday, 21 November 2001.

With regard to non-petroleum minerals no new substantial finds have been reported to me in the intervening period. The acid test of commerciality is that having made a find, the explorer is then prepared to invest in planning for mining and so makes the necessary applications for permits to me, to the relevant local authority and to the EPA. Over the past five years the results of the exploration effort for gold and ores of precious metals, while sufficient to encourage continued exploration, have not resulted in an application for a mining permit.

As stated in my replies to similar questions relating to offshore exploration and development raised by the Deputy over the last year, the only positive developments have been in relation to the Corrib gas field off the west coast. Enterprise Energy Ireland Limited declared the Corrib field commercial in January 2001 on behalf of its co-[1596] venturers, Statoil and Marathon. A petroleum lease demising the petroleum in the Corrib leasehold area issued to the Corrib group on 15 November 2001, and gave the conditions under which the lessees may work the petroleum, that is produce and market the gas. The granting of the lease does not in itself allow the company to commence development of the field. Under the terms of the lease, a plan of development accompanied by an environmental impact statement (EIS) had to be submitted by the group for my approval before any development could take place. A plan of development accompanied by an EIS was submitted by the group in November last and is currently being processed in my Department. I expect to be in a position to make a decision in the matter by mid-March 2002.

Enterprise Energy Ireland have plans to bring the gas ashore by October 2003 and expect the field to be in production for about 15 years. This is the first large scale commercial gas discovery in Ireland since the Kinsale field some 25 years ago. Its reserves are estimated at somewhat more than half those of the Kinsale and Ballycotton fields. Well commitments under existing authorisations only amount to between three and six for the entire Irish offshore. This year an exploration well will be drilled in the Rockall trough basin and it is expected that one, possibly two appraisal/development wells will be drilled in the Seven Heads area of the North Celtic Sea basin. There is a further possibility that a sixth appraisal well will be drilled on the Corrib gas field in the Slyne basin and that one, possibly two exploration wells will be drilled in the Slyne/Erris basins.

The number of offshore exploration licences has fallen to eight compared to a peak of 32 in 1997. Nine of the 11 frontier exploration licences issued under the Rockall trough licensing round in 1997 have now been relinquished. As regards the onshore, two petroleum exploration wells already drilled in the north-west carboniferous basin will be re-entered, stimulated and tested. One further exploration well may be drilled there this year.

The question of Ireland's energy requirements in the future is a matter for my colleague, Deputy O'Rourke the Minister for Public Enterprise. However, as a mentioned in a previous reply, Ireland currently has no reserves of oil, so all of its oil requirements are imported. In relation to gas, 18% of the national requirement in 2001 was met by production from the Kinsale Head gas field and the remaining 82% was imported through the interconnector. These figures reflect the decline in production of Kinsale from 1995-96 when 83% of the national requirement was met from the Kinsale field. It is expected that the share of the national requirement supplied by indigenous gas will increase again when the Corrib field comes into production.


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