Government urged to clarify offshore drilling policy

File photo.

The Government has been urged, by a gas exploration company active in Irish waters, to clarify its long-term position on offshore drilling or risk losing inward investment.

Predator Oil and Gas said the Government needs to give more clarity on the future shape of Ireland's exploration industry and speed up its process of awarding licences; warning that investment will go elsewhere if nothing changes.

"It is time the politicians made it clear whether Ireland is open for business for investment in developing indigenous gas or not, and if so took the practical steps to enact the rhetoric," said Predator's founder and chief executive Paul Griffiths.

Predator is active offshore Ireland and onshore in Trinidad and Morocco - where it has just agreed terms on a phased eight-year exploration programme.

Here, the company is solely focused on gas exploration. It has two licensing options; one in the Celtic Sea and one near the Corrib gas field off the north-west coast.

Paul Griffiths

Predator recently described the Celtic Sea asset - which contains an estimated one trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas - as being a potential "game-changer" for Ireland.

The company's frustration lies with the length of time it has been waiting to get approval to convert its Irish licensing options into full exploration licences.

Mr Griffiths said Predator has been waiting nearly eight months for a frontier exploration licence decision on its Corrib South option.

As a result, he said the company has missed the chance to potentially drill in 2020.

He added that the delay is also hampering Predator's chances of landing development partners for its Irish assets, who may instead seek to acquire UK or Norwegian oil and gas assets instead.

"There is no understanding of commercial issues whatsoever. Investment funds go elsewhere – for us to Morocco where security of gas supply and a greener energy mix is seen as strategically and commercially important and the government there works very hard to be supportive in a practical way," he said.

The position in Morocco is not dissimilar to that in Ireland – concerns over security of gas supply and a commitment to reducing C02 emissions.

"The difference is that Morocco is proactive in encouraging indigenous gas exploration as gas is seen as the energy bridge to a greener energy mix by replacing coal-fired power generation," Mr Griffiths said.

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