One of the advantages of working in a PR agency that is forty years young, is that a trawl through the archives can throw up some real gems. A recent exploration yielded an ‘Offshore Ireland’ magazine from 1975, a year after Murray was established and at a time when there was a real buzz in the oil and gas sector in Ireland. ‘Offshore Ireland’ was an industry magazine for an emerging offshore oil and gas industry in Ireland.
The September, post drilling season edition highlighted that eight wells had been completed that year. As only sixteen wells had ever been drilled in Irish waters previously, 1975 was a big year for the industry. Up to this point all wells had been drilled by either Marathon Oil or Esso. Two Marathon wells had encountered gas, two Esso wells had discovered oil. Only the gas wells would prove commercial in the short term. The second oil discovery was the much discussed Barryroe oil field. All the other wells had been plugged and abandoned. It was hoped that a number of new players, including Texaco, ELF and Shell AGIP would be drilling in 1976.
Other articles in the magazine describe the signing of an agreement between Bord Gáis Éireann and Marathon for the supply of gas from the Kinsale Head gas field. BGE was undertaking to purchase 125 million cubic feet of gas for the next 20 years with first gas to be delivered in 1979. Separately, there was an optimistic piece on Cork as a new base for offshore exploration activity, with the now defunct Verolme Dockyard featuring prominently.
Nearly 40 years on, the hoped for oil and gas boom has yet to materialise. In total, about €3bn has been spent drilling around 150 wells over the decades. Off these, just four have yielded commercial gas discoveries, three off the coast of Cork and one at Corrib. There has been no commercial oil discovery off the coast of Ireland to date.
As we enter 2015, somewhat older and wiser, and following 2 years in which no wells were drilled in Irish waters, we are seeing renewed interest in offshore exploration - 2015 should see one well drilled off the west coast. It will also see the results of the latest licensing round – a competition to divide up large parcels of land offshore for future exploration. Such milestones tend to prompt perennial, ill-informed calls for more and higher taxes, as though adding additional hurdles will in some way benefit the Irish economy. An occasional dusting down of the facts is therefore appropriate if we are to encourage activity that, against the odds, could be transformative for Ireland.
Joe Heron, Account Director, Murray
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