Oil and Gas

Ireland gives exploration permits to energy groups

DUBLIN, March 5 (Reuters) - Ireland on Wednesday awarded four offshore oil and gas exploration licences to three groups, which included Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM.N, in a bid to reduce the country's dependence on imported fuels. The licences cover block areas totalling 4,963 square km in the Porcupine Basin, off the west coast, the energy ministry said.

Exxon Mobil, Providence Resources PRR.IPRRq.L and Sosina Exploration received two licences.

Island Oil and Gas IOG.L together with Supernova Ireland Resources received one licence to drill.

Separately, a bidding group comprising Providence Resources, Sosina Exploration and Challenger Minerals was also granted one licence.

Energy Minister Eamon Ryan, whose Green Party entered into a coalition government last year, said he hoped the permits would lead to the discovery and development of new resources.

“Currently 90 percent of our energy comes from imported fossil fuels,” he said in a statement. “We need to reduce this level of exposure.”

Ireland is vulnerable to global supply disruptions as it is at the end of Europe’s pipelines. Rising world fuel prices have also coaxed the country to look for domestic solutions.

The country has tried to boost the development of renewable energy by introducing government-backed guaranteed prices for offshore and onshore wind farm generation.

The next exploration licensing round is expected to take place in early 2009 in the Rockall Basin. (Reporting by Jonathan Saul, editing by Anthony Barker)