Ireland has thrown open the bulk of its Atlantic waters in its first licensing round since 2011.
The offer was announced by junior energy minster Fergus O’Dowd at a conference in Dublin.
Known as the 2015 Atlantic Margin oil & gas exploration licensing round, the offer is to close in September 2015.
The formal launch of the round coincides with the surprise move earlier on Wednesday to raise taxes on future Irish oil & gas fields following an external review by Aberdeen-based energy consultants Wood MacKenzie.
O’Dowd said that “the conclusion of the fiscal terms review allied with the announcement of the detail of 2015 Round provides industry with the certainty necessary to invest in exploration offshore Ireland”.
He said that the long lead-in time for the round’s closing date aimed to “allow sufficient time for exploration companies to devote resources and commence work on evaluating data, so that they can make strong applications”.
The offer is to extend to all of Ireland’s major Atlantic areas to the west of the country including the Porcupine, Goban Spur, Slyne, Erris, Donegal and Rockall basins.
Two-year licensing options that can be converted into 15-year frontier exploration licences are to be offered in the round.
The acreage on offer is to be divided into three regions, whereby explorers can apply for: up to six blocks in the Porcupine and Goban Spur basin; up to four blocks in the Donegal, Erris and Slyne basins; and up to ten blocks in the Rockall basin.
To spur interest in the round, the department is to offer data from its recent wide-ranging set of 2D seismic surveys over 18,000 square kilometres to the industry.