Any person who wants to explore for, drill for or extract oil or gas in Northern Ireland must hold a petroleum licence granted by the Department for the Economy (DfE) under the Petroleum (Production) Act (Northern Ireland) 1964.

Petroleum licensing in Northern Ireland

The application and licensing process is underpinned by regulations which, among other things, set out the arrangements for making and determining applications, permissible terms and conditions for granting a petroleum licence and the model clauses which may be incorporated in a petroleum licence. 

Northern Ireland petroleum licences

On 29 January 2020, the Administrator and Operator of Petroleum Licence PL1/10, Terrain Energy Limited, notified the Department that it wished to relinquish the licence with immediate effect. In accordance with the legislation, the licence determined (terminated) following a three-month notice period, on 28 April 2020.

At present there are no active Petroleum Licences in Northern Ireland whilst two applications for a Petroleum Licence are still under consideration by the Department.

Current petroleum licensing opportunities

All of onshore Northern Ireland is available for Petroleum Licence applications.

Applications will be considered on a ‘first come, first served’ basis – unless two or more valid applications are made (received by the department) on the same day then the first such application received will be assessed before any other applications, for coincident or overlapping areas, received later.

Interested parties are invited to contact Minerals and Petroleum Branch (email: for licensing administration and Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (email: for technical issues, in the first instance.

The application form, guidance for applicants and other relevant information is set out below.

New applications for a petroleum licence

DfE is not considered to be in receipt of an application until it is assessed to be a ‘valid’ application. An application for a petroleum licence cannot be considered to be a valid application until due process has been completed on the documentation submitted to ensure that it complies with the requirements set out in Schedule 1 of The Petroleum Production Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1987.

Consequently, all applications for petroleum licences are treated as commercially sensitive until they are fully validated and assessed.

Application form and guidance for applicants

The application form includes three appendices for Financial Capacity, Technical Capacity and Environmental Awareness.

For further information please contact

Any questions raised by applicants and answered by DfE or GSNI will be shared with all applicants. This question and answer material will be updated regularly.

Onshore oil and gas exploration in Northern Ireland: regulation and best practice

The Department for the Economy (DfE) grants petroleum licences “to explore for, bore for and get” petroleum in Northern Ireland under powers granted by the Petroleum (Production) Act (Northern Ireland) 1964.

Petroleum licences in Northern Ireland consist of three periods of 5, 5 and 20 years known as the initial term, second term and production period, respectively. These terms correspond to the exploration, appraisal and production phases of a conventional oil or gas development and the licensee must fulfil the agreed work programme and satisfy the requirements of the legislation to progress from one term to the next.

Underpinning legislation

(Please note that the 1987 Regulations have been amended by the Petroleum Production (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 – see below. In particular, regulations 2 and 3 (applications for licences) and Schedule 1 (form of application for a licence) have been substituted and substantial amendments have been made to Schedule 2 (model clauses).  

Technical information

Information on Northern Ireland's prospectivity, exploration data and publications can be viewed on the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland website.

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