[Press release] 2-year moratorium on exploration licences!

GNU licence, wikimedia commons Meredithw

GNU licence, wikimedia commons Meredithw

Minister Fergus O’Dowd has finally given in to pressure from those campaigning against shale gas exploration and announced an unofficial moratorium on exploration licences.
In a press release on 7th March, he confirmed that two companies, Tamboran and Enegi Oil, have applied for licences and that his Department would be evaluating those applications. However, “further consideration of the application will then be put on hold until after the finding of the new EPA research have been published”, he said. He also said that he does not propose ”to consider applications for exploration authorisation in respect of other onshore areas until the EPA research has concluded”.
This means that no Exploration Licences will be given out for at least two years as the EPA report is not due until 2015.
This is a great victory for the campaigners. Recently, Good Energies Alliance Ireland organised an intense letter-writing campaign to the Minister demanding that the Government gave a commitment that no further licences would be granted for fracking. Other campaigners also had a “Licence Not to Frack Leitrim” campaign and went to Leinster House to express their concerns. Local TDs, Senators and Councillors also put pressure on the Minister. Those actions have paid off.
Statement from GEAI
“We are delighted with this development. It shows the power of the campaign that through our efforts we were able to influence the Government to pull back from issuing Exploration Licences that would give the companies concerned rights to drill. We now have two years to bring our campaign to the wider population, to raise awareness that this is a national issue, not a local one and that the consequences of allowing this industry free rein in our country could be a national disaster. The campaign is not over by any means – this is only a temporary moratorium, our ultimate goal is achieving a total ban on fracking in Ireland and we will keep working until this happens.”

No Petroleum Prospecting Licences issued for Shale Gas companies in Republic of Ireland

A recent answer to an environmental information question has revealed that no Petroleum Prospecting Licences have been issued to Tamboran, Enegi or Lough Allen Natural Gas Co. (LANGCO).
In March 2011, The Petroleum Affairs Division of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources granted Licensing Options to Enegi, Tamboran Resources and Lough Allen Natural Gas Company for a combined area covering nearly half a million acres.
Condition 2 of those Licensing Options [eg. Tamboran’s] required each of the above companies to hold a Petroleum Prospecting Licence. Condition 13 from Licensing Terms For Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, Development & Production 2007 which form part of the Licensing Options granted to the three companies reinforce the requirement to hold a Petroleum Prospecting Licence.
The 1960′s Mineral act states in section 6:
6.—(1) No person, other than the Minister, shall search for petroleum in any area in the State unless—
(a) he is the licensee under an exploration licence, a petroleum prospecting licence or a reserved area licence which is for the time being in force and includes that area, or
(b) he is the lessee under a petroleum lease which has not expired and which includes that area.
So this would seem to indicate that the above companies are in breach of this act and may have been prospecting illegally. There do not seem to be any other licences granted to these companies from looking at department records.
It is worth noting too that the Petroleum Prospecting Licence, is what appears to give the holder permission to enter onto land. It also should contain a clause indemnifying the Minister.
There are serious questions to be answered by the Minister and his Department over how this situation arose, and also over why this situation has persisted for nearly two years.
Note: This article has been written by Tom White and published on his blog. As a member of Good Energies Alliance Ireland, he is working on legal issues about unconventional gas exploration and extraction in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

[Press release] EPA report on fracking “just a whitewash”?

Wikimedia cc (A. F. Borchert)

Lough Allen, Spencer Harbour.   Wikimedia cc (A. F. Borchert)

Options Licences have been granted to three oil/gas companies to study the potential for shale gas exploitation in the Northwest and Clare.  Now the Government is commissioning a report by the EPA on the safety of the technology of hydraulic fracturing, which will be completed in 2014.  Minister Rabbitte says that no hydraulic fracturing will be allowed until after this report is delivered and considered.
EXPLORATION LICENCES COULD STILL BE GRANTED.  In the North, four exploration licences have been granted already.  The only one that specifically allows fracking is the Tamboran licence.  The others do not allow fracking.  Similar exploration licences could be granted to the three exploration companies if they apply for licences by 28th February.  This matter is therefore URGENT.
A possible scenario is that such licences will be given, mining pads will be constructed and deep drilling will commence, possibly as early as next year. After the EPA report, applications could then be made for fracking. If this happens, there is little chance that fracking will be forbidden – the commercial viability of any well cannot be established without hydraulic fracturing. The granting of exploration licences is therefore in effect the granting of permission to frack.
There is a common perception that an exploration licence automatically follows the licencing options that have already been granted. This is not true! The licencing options given to Tamboran, LangCo and Enegi Oil include the following Condition:
If the Company applies, on or before the expiry date of this Licensing Option, to licence all or part of the area reserved by way of this Option, the Minister will be prepared to consider the granting of a follow-up authorisation (an Exploration Licence) to the Company covering an area to be agreed with the Minister having regard to the work programme proposed by the Company.’
The Minister is therefore under no obligation to grant exploration licences at any time. Neither is he liable for compensation claims. The decision to grant exploration licences is therefore a political decision, not a commercial or legal requirement.
So – why will the Minister not state that NO Exploration Licences will be issued before the new EPA report is completed and considered?
Has the deal been done already and is the EPA report just a whitewash?

[Press release] Tamboran and EnegiOil to apply for shale gas exploration licences in February

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.


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