Infrastructure Minister Chris Thomas this week confirmed that Crogga had sought to vary the conditions of its licence to explore Manx waters for gas.

Mr Thomas was asked by Douglas East MHK Joney Faragher whether the company had requested a variation which would omit the requirement to survey and permit the company to start drilling.

In his response, the minister said: ‘The department has received a request to vary the licence which would vary the timing of the various activities. The department will seek appropriate advice in considering this request and has not yet made a decision.’

In May, the government said that the company’s licence was divided into three exploration phases:

Phase A – geotechnical studies and geophysical reprocessing

Phase B – seismic survey and acquiring other geophysical data

Phase C – exploratory drilling

However, in November Crogga said its intention was to start drilling for gas off Maughold Head next year, with the company hopeful production will begin in 2026.

The company said: ‘The 1982 BP well proved the presence of natural gas in a conventional sandstone reservoir. The Independence well aims to determine the full size of the gas column and to measure the rate at which gas flows out of the ground. This question can only be answered by drilling a well, not by shooting seismic and the outcome is unknown until the well is drilled, logged and flow tested.’

It added: ‘The well will take three months to complete and will be spudded (started) as soon as preparatory work and government approvals are complete. A drilling rig will be mobilized from the North Sea with the aim to spud during 4Q 2023. In the event of success, 3D seismic and further drilling would follow to develop the conventional sandstone reservoir with first production of natural gas as early as 2026.’

Under the licence, which was extended by the government in May this year, the company is committed to acquiring a 3D seismic survey and drill two appraisal wells.