The underexplored Porcupine Basin offshore Ireland attracted 80% of the applications in the recent 2015 Atlantic Margin Irish licensing round, and for the first time saw a significant number of awards going to major companies including ExxonMobil, Statoil, Nexen and BP. The area has become a focus of attention most recently as a result of Statoil’s 300-600mmbbl Bay du Nord discovery in the analogous Flemish Pass Basin offshore Canada, but is also the result of earlier work by a number of independent companies that kicked off a round of 3D seismic surveys in 2013. As a result companies such as Antrim Energy, Europa Oil & Gas, Petrel Resources and Providence Resources hold assets surrounded by major-held licences and are well positioned in the ongoing farm -out processes.
Exploration success in analogous Flemish Pass
Interest in the Porcupine Basin was initially renewed as a result of the Cretaceous discoveries offshore West Africa, but the discovery of world-class resources in the analogous Flemish Pass Basin offshore eastern Canada has intensified the industry focus on the area. It is significant that a number of licence options awarded in Phase 1 of the 2015 licensing round went to major companies with large interests in the Flemish Pass Basin, especially ExxonMobil and Statoil, which bid together as partners and secured the largest award of six licence options.
Independents instrumental in generating interest
Independent companies have played a large part in looking at the Porcupine Basin in a fresh light and attracting investment to the area. Providence Resources was the earliest entrant to the basin in 2004 and successfully attracted Cairn Energy to its Spanish Point field and ExxonMobil to Dunquin, while the 2013 drilling of Dunquin North demonstrated the presence of oil in the southern part of the basin. Europa Oil & Gas and Antrim Energy farmed out to Kosmos Energy, which then acquired substantial 3D seismic data that has been critical in increasing the understanding of the basin. Petrel Resources farmed down to Woodside Energy and is now carried through to one exploration well on each of its licences.
Key events in 2016
The second phase of the 2015 licensing round is due to be announced in May 2016, while a number of 3D seismic surveys by Providence, Woodside and Statoil are scheduled to take place over the summer months. The earliest drilling in the basin is likely to be an appraisal well in Spanish Point in 2017/18.
Porcupine Basin: Attracting major interest
The Porcupine Basin is a large underexplored area located around 200km west of Ireland. Drilling began here in 1977, but, despite some early discoveries at Burren, Connemara and Spanish Point, commercial success has so far remained elusive. Interest has been renewed in the region as part of the broader interest in the Atlantic Margin, initially following on from the successful drilling of the Cretaceous stratigraphic structures offshore West Africa. A number of independent companies entered the area in the 2011 Atlantic Margin Licensing round, including Antrim Energy, Europa Oil & Gas and Petrel Resources, and joined existing operators such as Providence Resources. The strategy of these companies looked to be paying off with the 2013 entry of larger companies Cairn Energy, Woodside Energy and Kosmos Energy through farm-ins, while the 2013 discovery of up to 600mmboe in Statoil’s Jurassic Bay du Nord discovery in the analogous Flemish Pass Basin offshore Canada has further focused attention on the region. The latest licensing round in 2015 received a record number of 43 applications from 17 companies, with 80% of applications for the Porcupine Basin. A significant number of the Phase 1 stage of the 2015 awards went to majors also involved in the Flemish Pass Basin: ExxonMobil, Statoil, CNOOC/Nexen and BP.
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