Tony O'Reilly, whose billionaire father shares the same name, will have his company Providence Resources start drilling off the coast of Ireland as part of a $500 million-plus program next month, according to

The company could be the first of many to do so as Dublin may soon be awarding a new round of exploration licenses for a vast area of the Atlantic off the west coast of Ireland, covering an area of about 252,500 sq m. It is believed that 15 companies have applied to drill.

Experts say potential resources could top 10 billion barrels of oil.

"We have to get the drill bit turning,” says O’Reilly. “It’s like winning the Lottery: you have to buy a ticket.”

Providence, whose partners include America's Exxon Mobil, plans to drill up to 10 wells on six sites by 2013, and explore in the Celtic Sea off the south east coast, Dublin, Northern Ireland and in deep water off Ireland's west coast.

Providence will be able to take another look at prospects regarded before and not commercially viable, thanks to improved infrastructure, high oil prices and enhanced technology.

“The Arab Spring has highlighted energy security and has meant that Ireland is currying favour,” says O’Reilly. “It is an old district looked at through a new lens.”

One lucky hit could help not only shareholders, but could also help revive the Celtic Tiger  by attracting investment and hefty tax revenues into the country.