Exploration and Production

Offshore Oil Rig and Oil tanker at sunset.

History of Oil and Gas (Exploration & Production) in Ireland

Petroleum exploration activity in Ireland began in 1960 with the acquisition of seismic data onshore Ireland by Ambassador Irish Oil Company who subsequently drilled six wells onshore Ireland during 1962 and 1963.  The first well was drilled near Trim in Co. Meath during August and September in 1962.  The results were disappointing however gas did flow from a well drilled near Dowra, Co. Cavan in uncommercial quantities.

Attention then shifted to the offshore and the first well was drilled in Block 48/25 in the North Celtic Sea Basin, south of Cork by Marathon in 1970.  The well encountered indications of gas and was plugged and abandoned.  The following year Marathon drilled two more wells, one in Block 50/11, which was unsuccessful, but the next well, the third well to be drilled offshore Ireland, discovered the Kinsale Head gas field.  The field, which produces from lower Cretaceous sandstones, came on stream in 1978.  In 1991 gas from the satellite Ballycotton field was brought into production through the Kinsale Head facilities and in 1999 production of  gas from the southwestern lobe of the Kinsale Head field (Southwest Kinsale) commenced.  Gas from Southwest Kinsale has since been depleted and it has been operational as a seasonal gas storage facility since 2006.  In 2003 the Seven Heads gas field came on stream using a subsea tie back to the Kinsale Head offshore facilities.  Gas production from Kinsale Head, Ballycotton and Seven Heads is in decline and currently contributes approximately 5% to Ireland's gas demand. 

In 1996 the Corrib Gas Field was discovered of the coast of Mayo by Enterprise Oil and was declared commercial in 2001.  The field, which is operated by Shell E&P Ireland Ltd came into production at the end of 2015.  There have been no commercial discoveries of oil to date.

Over the past few years there has been an upswing in the exploration momentum offshore Ireland as reflected by the number of exploration authorisations, which is currently at its highest ever level. 
There has also been an increase in recent years in the amount of seismic data acquired.  The total amount of seismic data acquired offshore since 1965 is in the region of 37,500km2 of 3D data and 397,000km of 2D data, which includes the Department's Regional Seismic Survey.  However, Ireland still remains underexplored.  A total of just under 160 exploration and appraisal wells have been drilled offshore since 1971.  This is a very small number when compared to countries like UK and Norway and highlights the underexplored nature of our offshore.