Exploration company Providence Resources has said that tests show there is significant oil potential at its Rathlin Basin prospect off the coast of Northern Ireland.

In a statement, the company said initial tests indicate that the prospect could contain more than 500 million barrels of recoverable oil.

The company is planning on a drilling programme for next year and, given its near-shore location, it is possible that the prospect could be drilled from an onshore Northern Ireland location.

"We have now commenced planning for a future drilling programme in 2014, which includes necessary site investigations, local permitting requirements, together with regulatory and local stakeholder liaison," technical director John O'Sullivan said.

The promising news on Rathlin Basin follows an announcement in November that Providence's Drombeg site in deep Atlantic waters could yield 872 million barrels of recoverable oil.