STAVANGER, Norway, March 2 (UPI) -- Following a successful 2015 auction, Norwegian energy company Statoil said it was building a better position in the emerging reserve potential offshore Ireland.
Statoil, alongside Exxon Mobil, was awarded the rights to explore roughly 2,900 square miles of the deep waters off the Irish coast.
"This supports Statoil`s exploration strategy of early access at scale," Erling Vagnes, a regional vice president for Statoil said in a statement. "We look forward to working with Exxon Mobil on exploring these opportunities."
The six licenses to be shared by Statoil and Exxon Mobil are in the Porcupine basin in the Atlantic Ocean. The Norwegian company said preliminary work through 2017 would focus on seismic research to get a better understanding of the reserve potential in the region.
Last year, junior explorer Europa Oil & Gas said there may be up to 1.5 billion barrels of reserves in frontier prospects in the Porcupine basin.
The Irish government is hedging its bets on the reserve potential. Four years ago, the government said offshore reserves produced 14 billion cubic feet of natural gas, but no oil.
There were 43 applications submitted to the Irish government during last year's auction. Natural Resources Minister Joe McHugh said it was "by far" the largest expression of interest ever for the country's offshore basin.
Ireland imports all of its oil and relies in foreign sources for 90 percent of its natural gas needs.