There are no plans to introduce special measures to develop shale gas and oil in Northern Ireland unlike Great Britain, but since 2011 the NI Government wishes to develop natural gas production.
Northern Ireland is a devolved part of the United Kingdom and has its own parliament and government in Belfast. There are 1,810,000 people in Northern Ireland; 70% of the economy’s revenue comes from the service sector and 1% from tourism.
The majority of Northern Ireland’s energy comes from fossil fuels. Coalfields have not been mined since the 70’s. The two main power stations are powered by natural gas and Northern Ireland is served by large gas pipelines from Scotland. This gas originates mainly from the North Sea reserves, now approaching depletion.Ballylumford natural gas-fired power station provides half of Northern Ireland electricity
In 2011, four hydrocarbon licenses were awarded by DETI (Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment): Rathlin Island and Ballinlea in Co. Antrim, Woodburn Forest near Belfast in Co. Antrim and Belcoo in Co. Fermanagh. Exploration well was drilled in Woodburn Forest recently but no oil was found. One licence was also awarded by Westminister for the off-shore area around Rathlin Island.
There is no difference between licences issued for conventional or unconventional hydrocarbon. The Northern Ireland authorities are only empowered to award onshore oil and gas licences; maritime space is under the control of the authorities in London. In August 2014, the NI Minister of Environment declared that fracking could not take place in Northern Ireland without further evidence of safety however this statement is not supported by legislation.
Mobilisation to protect lands against drilling
The projects in Belcoo, Ballinlea and Rathlin Island (on-shore) are not progressing further. In the offshore area around Rathlin Island, the company Providence Resources expects to test drill soon. Despite opposition to the Woodburn Forest project, the company InfraStrata drilled an exploratory well in May 2016.
In June, we learned that oil or gas was not found in Woodburn Forest, north of Belfast, but future wells could be drilled in the licence area.