Other Questions. - Offshore Exploration.

Dick Spring

Question:

10 Mr. Spring asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the latest information available to his Department on the progress of the drilling programme by a company (details supplied) in the Porcupine Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17410/01]

When answering the question I would like to be able to get it all in. If it means shortening the answer, and Members are happy with that, we can do business. I like to think that I know my brief so well that I can answer a supplementary question without reading a lecture.

In 1995 Statoil Exploration (Ireland) Limited and partners were granted a frontier exploration licence over five and a half blocks in the Porcupine Basin. Statoil, as operator of the licence, commenced drilling an exploration well in block 35/21 on 13 May 2001, and drilling is ongoing. The estimated duration of the drilling programme is 43 days. All data about the well is submitted on a daily basis to my Department where it is assessed using in-house expertise. The Deputy will appreciate that any such data is regarded as commercially sensitive and must, therefore, remain confidential.

In a number of reports in the national media Statoil indicated a certain amount of excitement about the prospects in the Porcupine Basin. There has been no drilling there since 1997. From the reports which the Minister's Department received, is he as optimistic about the drilling prospects as the headlines in the media were?

Paper never refuses ink. I will not comment either way. Statoil seems to be quite satisfied with what has happened to date. It is confidential information and we should not dwell on it any further.