It has been announced by energy firm Infrastrata that plans to drill for gas and oil in County Antrim remain a top priority. The news comes as partner firm Larne Oil and Gas Limited pulls out of the deal and the project continues to see strong opposition from environmental groups.
Plans have been afoot for some time for drilling efforts at Woodburn Forest near Carrickfergus. Work had been planned to start soon; however, having lost Larne, Infrastrata now needs to raise £2.8m in funds before the well can be drilled. It has not been plain sailing for the energy company up to this point either, with a certain amount of opposition being noted because the area falls within a water catchment area. This land has not only been leased from Northern Ireland Water but the nearby reservoir supplies Belfast with drinking water.
Speaking about the project, Infrastrata said it had all permits and regulatory approvals in order so that work could begin this winter; however, with Larne having pulled out of the project, the time frame is now dependant not only on getting a drilling slot but also on finding the additional funding required. A spokesperson for the company said that it is currently in talks with a number of firms to secure £2.8m “to complete the funding of the well so that it can be drilled this winter”.
Andrew Hindle, Infrastrata’s chief executive, also spoke about the project and said that although it was disappointing that Larne had pulled out, “significant progress has been made in recent months towards drilling the first exploration well on the PL1/10 licence area in over 40 years”. He continued by saying: “The lower costs of onshore operation mean that onshore projects are expected to remain profitable at lower oil prices if they were to persist.” Mr Hindle added that Infrastrata remains fully committed to drilling the Woodburn Forest-1 well.
Meanwhile, opposition against the project continues from a number of sources. Northern Ireland’s Friends of the Earth division expressed “major reservations” about the site, as it is “highly inappropriate” for gas and oil exploration and drilling. James Orr, the spokesman, said the proposed well is just 400 metres from a reservoir that supplies water to Belfast and is also a nature reserve. Although he hopes Larne might have pulled out because of the environmental factors involved, it was probably more likely that the industry’s current financially difficulties had guided its decision.
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