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Northern Ireland—The Last Great Frontier?

Europe’s Carboniferous basins have long been prolific sources of hydrocarbons and characterize many of the fields in and around the North Sea. But one of these basins is virtually overlooked. The Larne Basin in Northern Ireland is a classic Carboniferous basin that has remained unexplored for a couple of reasons. Firstly, historical “troubles” in Northern Ireland deterred the oil companies who were exploring elsewhere onshore and offshore in the U.K. at the time. Secondly, the basin is covered by volcanic basalts that until recently couldn’t be properly imaged through with seismic.

But this is about to change. A group of small companies, including Horizon Energy Partners LLC and Petro River Oil Corp. in the U.S. and InfraStrata Plc, Brigantes Energy Ltd., Terrain Energy Ltd., Ermine Resources Ltd., Baron Oil Plc and Tudor Hall Energy Ltd. in the U.K., currently have under license about 130,000 acres, distributed both onshore and offshore, and are expecting to spud their first conventional exploration well this month. Jonathan Rudney, Horizon’s CEO, is extremely bullish on the prospect. Rudney has been in the business for 35 years and has seen his share of exciting opportunities.

“But of all of the opportunities that I’ve seen in the last decade, there’s just nothing like this,” he said.