IRELAND is famous for its green landscapes, hospitality and now... oil.
Exploration experts claimed yesterday that Ireland is on the verge of a bonanzain black gold with 2008 set to be the most active year for offshore explorationsince 1978.
According to the Irish Offshore Operators Association, as many as sevenexploration wells are planned in 2007, compared to an average of one or two peryear for most of the last decade.
The Celtic Sea and the west coast have been identified as the areas most likelyto give Ireland any chance of finding oil.
If they are right, Ireland could be on the verge of establishing amulti-million euro industry.
In total, almost ?465million will be invested in Irish waters during the 2008season searching for oil.
Speaking at the IOOAs annual briefing in Buswells Hotel yesterday, chairmanFergus Cahill said that while results in earlier years had been disappointing,recent encouraging discoveries have stimulated interest in both the Celtic Seaand off the west coast.
Mr Cahill also said the ambitious drilling programme for the year would bringsignificant economic benefits, particularly to ports and airports servicing theindustry.
While this programme is purely exploratory in nature, successful drillingresults will stimulate appraisal and further exploration, with the possibilityof secure supplies of indigenous energy and increased support for economicactivity.
Todays announcement is good news for the Irish economy at a time of globaleconomic uncertainty, he added.
Oil exploration began in Irish waters in 1973, but this is the most optimisticoutlook in some many years. Shell, BP, Elf and Total are among the companieswho have explored for oil off of our shores.