Oil exploration orders received
Some 15 orders for permission to explore Irish waters for natural resources have been received by the Government from oil and gas companies.
Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte (right) said that it was the largest number of applications ever received in a single licensing round.
The moves came after the previous administration introduced new rules aimed at making Ireland more attractive to the world's exploration companies.
Companies not currently active in Irish waters have made applications along with companies that are active, the minister added.
Geologists believe there are large deposits that are now accessible thanks to new technologies and rising prices.