Irish Natural Resources

Ireland’s Oil and Gas Resources Stretch to Lough Allen


According to the Petroleum Affairs Division, (PAD), current estimates indicate at least 10 billion barrels of oil lie off the west coast Ireland. The Irish Independent stated that energy exports have the potential to transform Ireland into a “new Middle East.”

“A recent regional assessment estimated resources in the Porcupine and Rockall Basins at ten billion barrels of oil. Estimates are based on comparisons with the geology of other regions with proven success,” explained Helen Chandler, spokesperson for the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

In a recent publication by the Petroleum Affairs Division, (PAD), entitled Atlantic Ireland, it stated: “The potential shows volumes of over 130 billion barrels of oil and 50 trillion cubic feet of gas.”

Most of these deposits have been pinpointed along anunderwater ridge known as the Atlantic Margin which runs parallel to the west coast of Ireland in a more or less straight line before arcing off towards Scotland and the North Sea onwards towards Scandinavia.

 The Dunquin gas field which is 200km off the coast of Kerry contains an “astonishing25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 4,130 million barrels of oil. According to the Irish Independent this alone would meet Ireland’s gas needs – at present consumption levels – for the next 62 years.

The Dunquin field is being principally developed by Exxon Mobil: “With Dunquin we are planning to drill wells next year and 2009. It is deep water, and as a rule of thumb, it takes about five years to get a field into production, so we are looking at 2013 to 2015.

Further up the coast is the Spanish Point field, which is 200km off the coast of Clare. The field has known reserves of one and a quarter trillion cubic feet of gas and 206 million barrels of oil, and is valued at €19.6bn. The drilling of wells will start next year and field production field will start in 2011.

 The Corrib field, in County Mayo, which has an estimated value of “anywhere” between €8bn to €87bn. The field is being developed by Shell, Marathon and Statoil, the Norwegian state oil corporation.

Inland lies the Lough Allen Basin – an area which was largely famous as a bog. But now the area has been “notionally” valued at €74.4 billion and contains 9.4 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.5 billion barrels of oil

This vast field lies beneath Lough Allen and includes Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo.

“The answer to a large part of our security of supply could be in the North West of Ireland. It has the potential to turn from a gas importer to a gas exporter,” explains Tom Davitt, CEO of Finavera, who are planning to develop the field in the near future.

At present, nine new Frontier Exploration Licences and five Petroleum Prospecting Licences are outstanding for areas off the Donegal coast.




The arrival of Shell’s “Armada” in Co. Mayo
October 8, 2008, 8:10 pm
Filed under: Energy, Irish Mineral Resources, Irish Natural Resources | Tags: , , ,


The largest pipelaying vessel in the world, the 1,300 ft Solitaire arrived in Broadhaven Bay, in Co. Mayo. Shell has employed a “small army” of private security men, backed up by gardai, to protect the landfall area. The Dutch-owned Solitaire can lay between four and seven km of pipeline a day and normally carries a crew of around 400. Over the coming months, it is due to lay the pipe from the landfall site at Gelngar, 83km out to the Corrib Gas field. Shell’s External Affairs Manager John Egan said 22 vessels will be involved in the Corrib project: “You could describe it as the Corrib armada.”  Protestors claim Shell is attempting to construct the first 200m of the 9.2km onshore section of the pipeline before An Bord Pleanala makes its decision on the onshore section.

Timeline of Events:

Thursday, July 24th: Over 40 gardaí, stationed in the Shell compound, and 70 Shell specialist security forced the local community from a section of Glengad beach so that Shell could erect 10ft high fencing about 40ft down onto the beach. Using the Public Order Act, Gardai ordered the crowd to leave the area and then forcibly removed some of the protestors from the area. Members of the local community had been gathering from before 4am because they feared that Shell would begin work early as they had on the previous morning when they tore down the cliff-face to create a causeway down to the beach. According to protestors, it was a joint Garda & Shell operation.

Gardai and Shell security formed a cordon around where they were planning to put up the fencing, and then Gardai came in and forcibly removed the protestors who were inside the security bubble. There was little that the group of around 30 protestors could do but watch as the fencing was erected down to the water’s edge. It is presumed that Shell will seek to extend the fencing further once the tide has gone out again. However far it extends, it already cuts the public beach in two, which of course means that users do not have the right of way through the beach.

The legality of the consents are an issue of major concern as it is unclear what permissions Shell have received and for what exact work. Green Party Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan has claimed that it was an “oversight” that the latest authorisations for the project were not published. A spokeswoman said that all authorisations and new information relating to the department’s role would be published on the Department’s website.

Shell is now attempting to construct up to the first 200m metres of the onshore section of the pipeline without planning permission. Although the remaining 9.2km of the onshore pipeline is presently before An Bord Pleanala, this first 200m metres is due to be laid before a decision on the rest of the onshore section has been made. The further destruction of this Special Area of Conservation has continued unabated under the eyes of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

16th August 2008: The Rossport Solidarity Camp was set up again for the purposes of reorganising Shell to Sea resistance to Shell’s latest plans to construct its offshore section of the pipeline from Glengad out to the Corrib Gas Field. Protests are ongoing, involving both Shell to Sea activists and members of the local community.

29th August: An Irish naval vessel was deployed as protests mounted over the controversial Shell gas pipeline. The Irish Defence Forces said the LE Orla, with 39 crew onboard, was requested by gardaí as back-up at Broadhaven Bay, Co Mayo.

A spokesman for the naval service said he could not recall any of its ships ever being directly involved in an operation against civil demonstrations.

2nd September: Another Irish Naval Service vessel arrived off the Mayo Coast. The Irish Naval Service is composed of seven vessels. The priority which is being given to this operation is an indication its political character.

Tuesday September 9th: The Solitaire arrived in Broadhaven Bay, as the accompanying security operation intensified. Extra Gardaí; including special public order units have arrived. Local schoolteacher Maura Harrington commences hunger strike at the gates of the compound. Her demand is that the Solitaire leave the bay or else her hunger strike will continue.

Wednesday September 10th: Pipelaying work is temporarily suspended. According to local newspaper, The Mayo Echo, unnamed Irish Naval sources have stated their concern that a British nuclear submarine is positioned 11 miles off the Mayo coast and is providing direct assistance to the Irish authorities in monitoring communications. So far the Irish Government has refused either to confirm or deny this report. A Royal Navy spokesman, while refusing to confirm or deny the report, stated that if there is a submarine in Irish waters “then it wouldn’t be there without the permission of the Irish authorities.”

Thursday September 18th: Shell announces that the Solitaire pipe laying ship is to depart from Irish territorial waters and go to Scotland for repair and assessment. 

Friday September 19th: Maura Harrington ends her hunger strike.



Rockall 2009 “Frontier” Licensing Round

Department of Marine, Communications, and Natural Resourcers extends area ‘on offer’ for oil and gas exploration licenses under the 2009 Rockall Licensing Round

On 8th July, 2008 the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Mr. Seán Power T.D. today announced that he has decided to extend the area to be opened for licensing in the 2009 Rockall Licensing Round to include the north-western margin of the Rockall Basin. This will bring the total acreage on offer under the round to 117,100 square kilometres.

In announcing the expanded area, the Minister said that “this is the first time since 1997, that such a major part of the Rockall Basin has been the subject of a licensing round. Recent technical studies have indicated a significant petroleum potential within the Rockall Basin. It is timely, therefore, that the oil and gas exploration industry be offered an opportunity to commit to invest in new exploration programmes in the basin.”

The Minister said that the Department was building on the success of the two most recent licensing rounds (Porcupine 2008 and Slyne\Erris\Donegal 2006) and that the pace of drilling activity was increasing off Ireland. As a result, he was ‘confident’ that the Rockall Round would attract significant interest from exploration companies.

Applications for Frontier Exploration Licences covering blocks in the round will be invited in late 2008 with a closing date for applications in  2009.


Process of Asset-Stripping ESB Intensifies – Four Power Stations to be offloaded

The Spanish energy firm Endesa has stated that it has made a formal bid for €450m to buy four power plants from the ESB.

The ESB is being forced to sell the plants under a plan drawn up by the energy regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), to reduce and downsize the publicly – owned energy companies share of the Irish Energy Market.

Endesa is a subsidiary of Enel and is bidding against other parties, including Viridian Group, Bord Gais, International Power and Star Capital Partners, all of whom have submitted bids for the power stations.

It is also thought that Scottish & Southern Energy, Britain’s second-biggest generator, and E.ON, Germany’s biggest utility, may also bid for the plants.

A year ago, the ESB announced its intention to bow to the CER request to reduce its generating capacity by 1,300MW and said it would be selling the peaking plants at Great Island in Wexford and Marina Steam Turbine in Cork together with the Poolbeg and Tarbert power plants.

The programme of asset sales will bring the ESB’s share of the newly expanded single energy market north and south of the border to about 27%, while its share of the Irish power generation market is about 44%.

Following the divestment of assets, the ESB said it will maintain its market share of power generation at well below 40% to facilitate continuing competition in the energy market, continuing competition, that is., from the large multinational energy concerns who are to be handed more than half of the Irish Energy market in one stroke.

In return for agreeing to the asset sales, the ESB was granted approval by the CER to construct a new 430MW power station at Aghada, Co Cork.

Endesa made its offer on June 11th 2008, and, along with the other bidders, will hear the outcome of the process in late July 2008. Endesa’s offer of €450 million is in line with a valuation of ESB assets by an independent consultant.

Under a strategy outlined recently by chief executive Padraig McManus, the ESB is to make a major commitment to renewable energy and to halving its carbon emissions within 12 years, with the aim of achieving carbon net-zero by 2035. It is extremely doubtful that the ESB will even exist by that date.

“About half of the expected €22bn investment package is geared towards investments in our renewable future,” the company said. Of this, €4bn will be directly invested in renewable energy projects and €6.5bn will be spent facilitating renewables, including smart metering and smart networks.

”The plan is that by 2020 the ESB will be delivering one-third of its electricity from renewable generation. This will include over 1,400MW of wind generation.”

It is extremely doubtful that this target will be achieved, given the established record of the Irish Government in developing Ireland’s potentially huge wind – power capacity. ESB statements about transferring power capacity to renewable and reducing  Carbon Emissions is simply more Government greenwash which is designed as a smokescreen for a massive transfer of existing power generating capacity which at present lies in the hands of the public to multinational corporations.