A landscape in county Clare (cc wikimedia commons Eirian Evans)

In a recent statement, EnegiOil, an oil company with licencing options in County Clare, stated that they have found “recoverable” gas reserves in Clare and that they intend to apply for a full Exploration Licence, wrote a recent article in the Irish Examiner. It also has been confirmed by the Department for Energy that they have received relevant documents from Enegi Oil and Tamboran on or before the deadline of November 30th. Completed applications must be submitted before the end of February.

This development confirms the situation already publicised by Good Energies Alliance. Whereas the Irish Government have said that no hydraulic fracturing will be permitted before the new EPA report is “published and considered” in 2014, there is no commitment by the Government to impose a moratorium on issuing licences before then. Exploration Licences allowing deep drilling and flow testing of gas could still be issued.

“This could lead to a disastrous scenario,” said Dr Aedín McLoughlin, Good Energies Alliance member. “Once this particular juggernaut is set going, it would be nearly impossible to stop it. Exploration without fracking could be followed by a permit for hydraulic fracturing later. If the results are good, commercial extraction with hundreds of pads, thousands of wells and all the resulting environmental and health issues, will follow. An exploration licence grants the company rights to the petroleum products in the licencing area. We in Good Energies Alliance are lobbying the Government to impose a moratorium on the issuing of ALL further licences for on-shore shale gas exploration as a step towards a full ban on fracking.

Unfortunately, we cannot be complacent on this issue at all. At a recent session of the EU Parliament, all Fine Gael MEPs voted against an amendment calling for a moratorium. All Labour MEPs voted for it, as did Marian Harkin and Pat the Cope Gallagher. Campaigners must keep up the pressure on the Government to have a united voice in opposing fracking in Ireland.