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Abstract

Hydrocarbon exploration in the East Irish Sea Basin began with the identification of surface oil seeps in peat beds in Lancashire, UK. This precipitated the drilling of the first onshore exploration wells. The discovery of the Formby Field in west Lancashire at the end of the 1930s triggered a wave of further drilling. Wells drilled in west Lancashire had limited success, with only minor hydrocarbon shows, whilst the production from the Formby Field was modest. Nonetheless, the invaluable geological information taken from onshore wells and the ratification of the Continental Shelf Act led to a shift in focus to the offshore and a period of significant interest in the East Irish Sea. Two key periods of oil and gas exploration activity stand out in the history of the offshore basin, the first headed by the Gas Council during the 1970s resulted in the discovery of the gas giants of Morecambe Bay, whilst the second fronted by Hamilton Oil during the 1990s heralded the discovery of oil with the Douglas and Lennox fields in Liverpool Bay. Exploration in the basin has waned during the last decade; however, to date, this mature hydrocarbon province has yielded estimated hydrocarbon reserves of over 1.8 BBOE (billion barrels of oil equivalent).

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