Dáil Éireann - Volume 615 - 21 February, 2006

Written Answers. - Energy Resources.

[295]   357. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if there have been oil, gas or other mineral finds indicating commercial potential in the past four years; the location or locations of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7066/06]

  Mr. N. Dempsey: Since 2002 there has only been one gas find with commercial potential. The Dooish prospect, which was drilled in 2002 by Enterprise Energy Ireland — now Shell E&P Ireland — 125 km off the Donegal coast in the Rockall Basin and which discovered a gas condensate accumulation, was re-entered and deepened in 2003. My Department and Shell E&P continue to analyse the well results and integrate them with other data from the area.

Although the Seven Heads gas field was declared commercial in 2002, it was originally discovered in 1984. This field lies west of the Kinsale Head gas field in the north Celtic Sea basin, about 45 km from the Cork coast. This field went into production in December 2003. Since then the Seven Heads field has experienced serious production difficulties and is producing at a fraction of the level originally planned. There have been no oil finds in the past four years.

With regard to non-petroleum minerals, new exploration is continuously undertaken as part of my requirements to holders of prospecting licences, of which there are currently 262. Details of these licences can be found in the six monthly report to the Oireachtas which I am obliged to lay before the House under the Minerals Development Acts 1940 to 1999. The last such report was in respect of the six month period ended 30 June 2005. The report for the six month period ended 31 December 2005 is being prepared and will be laid before the House in the coming weeks.

While no new economic deposits of non-petroleum minerals have been discovered in recent years, there have been some encouraging results. Exploration adjacent to existing base metal mines at Navan, County Meath, owned by Tara Mines Limited, and Galmoy, County Kilkenny, owned by Arcon Mines Limited, has discovered additional resources which have the potential to extend the life of the mines in question. I recently granted new State mining licences to Arcon for extraction of part of these additional resources.