Science & Technology in Action

13th Edition

Petroleum exploration in Ireland's offshore basins

Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment

The discovery of natural gas fields offshore Ireland has enabled the transition from fuel sources such as peat, coal and wood to natural gas, which is a low-carbon fuel. Continued offshore exploration for natural gas can help secure Ireland’s energy supply and help meet our current and future energy needs.
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Lesson excerpt


Since the Industrial Revolution the burning of fossil fuels has raised the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) from 280 ppm to over 400 ppm. This increase is the major cause of the enhanced greenhouse effect causing global warming. It is almost universally agreed that we must reduce CO2 emissions and develop alternative energy sources. During the transition to a low-carbon future we will continue to require fuel for transport, heat and electricity generation. With limited fossil fuel resources, Ireland relies heavily on foreign imports. Currently all of Ireland’s oil demand is met through imports. Corrib and Kinsale gas fields provide Ireland with a portion of its energy needs but those fields are not in a position to meet all of the country’s annual gas demand and so we will continue to rely on gas via the United Kingdom for the foreseeable future.

Tectonic plates

Plate tectonics is the study of the lithosphere, the outer portion of the earth consisting of the crust and part of the upper mantle. The lithosphere is divided into some very large and several smaller plates. The plates slowly move through time, changing size and shape. When the plates interact with each other, they create geologic events such as earthquakes, volcanoes, mountains, mid-oceanic ridges and the formation of sedimentary basins. The type of event depends on the composition of the plates and how they move relative to each other. Approximately 300 mya (million years ago) the plates were assembled into a supercontinent called Pangea. Pangea began to break up during the early Jurassic (approximately 200 mya) eventually forming the modern continents and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Many of the Earth’s natural resources of energy, minerals, and soil are concentrated near past or present plate boundaries. Understanding the movement of the Earth’s surface and the historical position of the plates assists petroleum geoscientists in locating oil and natural gas deposits. This is particularly the case for Ireland where understanding the reconstruction of the plates in the North Atlantic is an essential tool for the exploration of oil and gas offshore Ireland.

True or False?

  1. The best way to find oil and gas is by gravity surveys. false
  2. Most fossil fuels were formed in the last 10,000 years false
  3. Most oil and gas formed from the remains of plankton. true
  4. Offshore oil rigs can cost about 200 million euro. true
  5. Photosynthetic microbes evolved about 3000 mya. true
  6. Hydrophones are used in seismic surveys. true
  7. An understanding of geology is not necessary for oil or gas exploration. false
  8. The Corrib Gas Field was discovered in 2015. false
  9. The acceleration due to gravity is the same at all points at the same latitude. false
  10. Seismic surveys have better resolution than magnetic or gravity surveys. true
  11. Currently all of Ireland’s oil requirement is imported. true
  12. Ireland does import natural gas. true