By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The Corrib gas field discovered off the coast of County Mayo has been confirmed as commercial by Marine Minister Frank Fahey.
The exploration consortium that discovered the field in 350 meters of waters, 70 kilometers out in the Atlantic has applied to the minister for a petroleum lease to exploit it.
Fahey described it as a "great day," as it marks the first substantial Irish offshore energy development since 1973.
The gas is due to be piped ashore in 2003 and the field is expected to have a lifetime of 15 years.
Fahey, a Galway TD, said the development of Corrib should contribute to opening new markets in the West and include making gas available for new power stations.
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The field was discovered by a consortium that involves the UK’s Enterprise Oil (45 percent), the Norwegian Statoil (36.5) and the U.S. Marathon Petroleum (18.5). It will be exploited by a sub-sea production system.
The consortium plans to drill wells on other prospects surrounding Corrib in the hope of further discoveries.
Ireland has no offshore oil. Two other offshore gas fields off the southern coast, Kinsale Head and Ballycotton, are expected to run out by 2004.
Discovered in the 1970s by Marathon, they had reserves of about 1.4 trillion cubic feet. Corrib is estimated to hold reserves of about a trillion cubic feet.
About 70 percent of Ireland’s natural gas requirements are imported though an underwater pipeline from Scotland.
Fahey said confirmation of the viability of Corrib was most opportune as gas demand in the booming economy was starting to put pressure in the capacity of the interconnector with the UK.