The company said it has found signs of a huge oilfield in the Rathlin Basin, just a few miles off the north coast of Northern Ireland, which initial tests have indicated could yield more than 500m barrels of oil.

Providence said it plans to start drilling in 2014, and hopes the near-shore location will allow a land-based operation in Northern Ireland.

The find forms part of Providence’s ambitious two-year $500m (£317m) drilling plan over six different basins off the coast of Ireland.

AIM-listed Providence, a relative minnow in the oil exploration world valued at £426m, hailed the “beginning of an Irish oil industry” when it found more oil than expected off the Cork coast in October.

More positive news followed in November when it claimed there could be nearly 900m barrels at Drombeg.

“We continue to be very encouraged by the results of the recent FTG programme, which has exceeded our pre-survey expectations,” said John O’Sullivan, technical director of Providence.

“The Rathlin Basin has always been considered prospective due to the presence of a rich oil prone source rock, however poor seismic imaging has historically rendered it difficult to determent the basin’s true potential.”

Providence and its predecessor, Atlantic Resources, have been scouring Irish waters for oil for 30 years, persisting with the search even when most energy majors exited after discouraging results in the 1980s.

Providence chief executive Tony O’Reilly Jr – third son of Ireland’s first billionaire – has said his hopes of finding oil and gas off Ireland’s shores were fuelled by a wish for the country’s swift recover for recession.

“One of the things I’m trying to get out there is that any success in the energy space could help to alleviate the banking crisis and the Moody’s downgrade,” he said, speaking to the Telegraph in 2010.

Providence shares rose 1.77pc in London and 3.71pc in its Dublin listing on Thursday.