The Irish government said on Thursday it had awarded oil and gas licences to companies including oil majors Eni, Exxon and Statoil , allowing them to explore for hydrocarbons off the coast of Ireland
The energy ministry
has awarded 14 new licences as a first phase of a tender for offshore blocks that gives companies access to new exploration areas for two years, it said. The round attracted 43 applications.
"This is by far the largest number of applications received in any licensing round held in the Irish offshore," said Joe McHugh, Ireland's minister for communications, energy and natural resources, in a statement.
"At a time of very low oil prices the strong interest in the round is very positive."
Oil prices have fallen around 70 percent since a peak in mid-2014 and many large oil companies, including some of those which obtained Irish licences, have scaled back exploration budgets as they rein in costs.
Other companies which were successful in securing licences in the first phase include Nexen, Europa, Scotia and Woodside, the government said.
The second phase of licence awards is planned for mid-May, it added.
(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; editing by Adrian Croft)