Over the weekend, US energy company ExxonMobil began €125m ($160m) worth of planned drilling activity on two prospects at the Dunquin licence area in the Porcupine Basin, 200km offshore of Ireland.

ExxonMobil is planning to drill test wells during a four-month period.

Earlier data suggested the presence of nearly 300 million barrels of oil and 8.5 trillion cubic feet of gas between the two Dunquin prospects.

The prospects, if proven and extracted, could be one of the biggest ever global discoveries of oil and gas and are expected to change Ireland’s economic fortunes, reported Independent.ie.

Drilling over the Dunquin prospects, which are situated in the Atlantic where the ocean is 1.6km deep, is a much anticipated programme and is being eagerly watched by oil companies across the globe.

"Earlier data suggested the presence of nearly 300 million barrels of oil and 8.5 trillion cubic feet of gas."

In March 2008, Irish independent oil and gas exploration company Providence Resources, along with ExxonMobil and UK-based Sosina Exploration, was awarded two exploration licences in Porcupine Basin. The licences in the Porcupine Basin comprise of 13 blocks across 760,000 acres.

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In June 2009, Providence announced that it would start site survey work on the Dunquin acreage in the Porcupine Basin.

ExxonMobil and Italian firm Eni hold 27.5% interest each in the Dunquin prospect, while Spanish energy firm Repsol, UK-based Sosina and Providence Resources have 25%, four percent and 16% interest each respectively in the prospect.

So far, Kinsale and Corrib are the only two small commercial fields discovered in Ireland, despite 200 wells being drilled in the past few decades, which produce 1.5 trillion and one trillion cubic feet of gas respectively.

Image: Dunquin prospects are expected to contain about 300 million barrels of oil and 8.5 trillion cubic feet of gas. Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos / suwatpo.