Fracking now a distinct possibility
The oil and gas industry now have a foothold in Northern Ireland – Infrastrata has come in under the shelter of “permitted development”, which they obtained by default, and is drilling an exploratory well that could be later used for fracking in Woodburn Forest, near Carrickfergus. They are drilling down over 6,000 feet (2 km) to look for oil or gas reserves in sandstone or shale rock underground and have already gone through the local aquifer. The well is directional (extending horizontally as well as vertically) and its dimensions are similar to natural gas production wells in US. The drill has operated day and night since last week and is descending into the earth at a rate of 1,000 feet per day.
‘Permitted Development’ – permission to operate without EIA
“Serious failures in governance could allow Infrastrata to acquire oil and gas extraction rights over 200 sq miles in Northern Ireland. We are only days away from the company potentially securing extraction rights for all petroleum in the Larne-Lough Neagh Basin,” said Eddie Mitchell from GEAI.
“We were shocked to see the drilling site on Sunday,” said Aedín McLoughlin. “High fences, razor wire, security with dogs, enormous police presence – this is a military-style operation. The drilling rig is enormous and it is clear that this is far from being a simple exploratory drill.”
“The campaign against fracking is now five years old and has very successfully prevented drilling in Leitrim and Fermanagh and also caused the stalling of the EPA study on fracking being led by industry players. In our wildest dreams we could not imagine that the industry could come on site without planning permission or Environmental Impact Assessment. But they have.”
This project is truly bizarre – the drilling site, which is owned by NI Water, was leased to this mining company although only 400 metres from a water reservoir feeding 130,000 people (why?). Also, to facilitate the drilling operation, the local Woodburn River has been diverted by NI Water without reference to the Habitats Directive. It would appear that there are systemic failures in the areas of planning and regulation in Northern Ireland.”
A Dangerous Project
“This drill must be stopped now! If the first introduction of drilling shows such disregard for planning and EU regulations, what would happen if this company hit oil or gas reserves and were then granted full petroleum rights in this area? Thousands of wells, horrendous water and air pollution, disruption of local communities and huge damage to roads and other infrastructure. This could be the situation even if fracking was not needed to extract the oil or gas. And if the company wanted to frack, threats of enormous compensation claims could force that permission” Aedín claimed. “Only this week, a North Yorkshire Council gave permission to frack a well that is two miles deep and was drilled some time ago. This drilling project in Antrim is too dangerous. It could lead to massive exploitation of the area by the oil and gas industry and to fracking, with all its attendant well-documented impacts on the environment and on human health.“