Drilling in Antrim – a Disaster!

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
Woodburn 220516

Woodburn Drill on Sunday 22nd May 2016

“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.“

Mark Ruffalo Calls on Minister Durkan to Stop the Drill

mrfrack750Press Release from Water Defense

Actor Mark Ruffalo has joined the chorus of voices demanding that Minister Mark Durkan stops the drilling at North Woodburn Reservoir with the risk of poisoning Belfast’s water supplies.  The situation is very grave – Infrastrata personnel have come on the land in Woodburn Forest with chain saws and are clearing the area targeted for drilling. Their operation is unlawful, without Environmental Impact Statement, without waste management plan, without proper permits.  It is time that the Minister acts!  This can’t be allowed to continue.

Actor and clean water advocate Mark Ruffalo, founder of Water Defense, and the organization’s Chief Technology Officer & Investigator, Scott Smith, sent a letter to Minister Durkan after Water Defense was contacted by local residents and organizations in Northern Ireland concerned about their water being contaminated by the drilling. Minister Durkan’s government is poised to allow unconventional oil and gas extraction with toxic chemicals 350 metres from the North Woodburn Water Reservoir that is the drinking water source for 131,000 people, including Belfast City centre. The unconventional drilling method is not safe and threatens the water supply, people’s health, and the environment.

Water Defense is a non-profit organization based in the United States that has traveled around the world testing water, educating people about toxic chemicals and pathways of contamination, and advocating for people’s right to clean drinking water. After local residents in Northern Ireland contacted the organization, Water Defense became very concerned about the ramifications of extreme drilling with toxic chemicals next to the reservoir and wrote a letter to Minister Durkan, copying other officials.

The letter notes, “It is also troubling that your Department, whose responsibility is for the Environment, is not intervening to stop this activity that appears to be unlawful given the fact that a Waste Management Plan (The Planning of Management of Waste from Extractive Industries 2015) was required before permitted development was granted and that environmental considerations have not been adequately assessed. It is extraordinary that on this sensitive site there has been no public scrutiny through the planning process and there has been no Environmental Impact Assessment.”

The letter also notes that Distinguished Professor Anthony Ingraffea, a renowned expert on unconventional drilling from the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department at Cornell University, has called it ‘irrational’ for the dangerous drilling to go forward on this particular land.  It points to the fact that some of the chemicals that would be used are carcinogenic, such asBiocide T, and can cause harm to unborn children.

The letter concludes, “We implore you to protect your citizens by protecting their water. The small amount of oil and gas that can be extracted from that site pales in comparison to the nightmare that contaminating the water supply for over 131,000 residents in your community would cause.”

Water Defense is also sending water testing kits to local residents and organizations including Friends of Earth Northern Ireland and Stop the Drill campaign, and will be in communication with them to perform water tests.

For the full letter :Water Defense letter to Northern Ireland

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