Ireland Pushes Underexplored Hydrocarbon Resources

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

If you’re looking for a promising frontier area to implement your exploration skills, head to Ireland.

The country’s Atlantic Basins are an under-explored frontier petroleum province with proven working hydrocarbon systems, according to Michael Hanrahan, principal geologist at the Petroleum Affairs Division, Energy and Natural Resources.

There’s a dedicated push under way to ramp up exploration.

This was evident when Fergus O’Dowd, minister for natural resources, journeyed to Houston to visit the Irish exhibit at the International Pavilion at the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition – and to talk about Ireland’s exploration potential.

Joining the group was Cathy O’Connor, first secretary ICT, energy and science at the Embassy of Ireland in Washington, D.C.

Ireland’s Atlantic basins have the potential for major oil and gas discoveries in water depths that range from 150 meters to more than 2,500 meters.

“We’re opening up our West Coast this year to prospecting companies that want to come in,” O’Dowd said. “We have up to 18,000 kilometers of new 2-D seismic available to them so they’ll know what their chances are.

“The last time, 13 companies came in,” he noted, “and 12 of them are moving into the next phase to full exploration licenses.”

World-Class Source Rocks?

Besides the 2-D acquisition last year, a regional 2-D is now in progress. In fact, last year was one of the most active years of seismic in Ireland in terms of 2-D and 3-D seismic, according to Clare Morgan, consulting geophysicist with the Energy and Natural Resources office.

Only 158 exploration wells have been drilled offshore Ireland to date, but O’Dowd emphasized that this is not due to lack of prospects. One problem is getting a deepwater rig to a west Ireland prospect for a single well.

O’Dowd commented also that Ireland exploration has suffered by being so close to the North Sea because companies experiencing success there kept going back.

He noted that there has been collaboration between Canada and the Irish in terms of reconstruction of the geology of the Atlantic given that Canada has many petroleum provinces.

According to the Irish resources group, the Atlantic reconstruction reveals the juxtaposition of the (Irish) Porcupine and Rockall basins with the Orphan basin of eastern Canada. The reconstruction provided info on the depositional environments and sediment transport directions.

The new models are said to show the possibility of regional world-class Upper and Lower Jurassic source rocks. Source rock modeling, prospect evaluation and analog basin review show a risked yet-to-find potential of at least 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

The comment was made that the structural style allows for the presence of giant undrilled structures.

If you succeed in latching on to a license, expect a smooth ride in the regulatory sense. 

“Our policies and procedures are in place, and there is clarity,” O’Dowd emphasized. “This enables the companies to know exactly what they’re coming into.”

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