OPINION: The Irish Fracking Process has begun

The Irish Fracking process has begun

Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI) views the latest developments  where preparations for shale gas exploratory drilling has begun in Belcoo as a National, not local issue.

Dr Aedin McLoughlin, Director GEAI, expressed extreme dismay.  “Make no mistake about it – any exploratory drilling, with or without hydraulic fracturing, is part of the overall fracking process,” she said.  “An exploratory well without hydraulic fracturing leads to more wells with “test fracks”, leading to full fracking as shale gas is extracted.  In Belcoo, the first stage is starting, with the industry bleating their mantra, “This is only drilling, it’s not fracking!”  When is fracking not fracking?  When the industry wants to hide what is obvious – that a good result from this first exploratory well could lead on to more wells and more wells and a full-scale fracking operation with all its environmental and social issues.”

“Another extraordinary issue,” she continued.  “ I understand that the results of this well in Belcoo, County Fermanagh will be taken by the Petroleum Affairs Division in Dublin as fulfilling the work obligations for the Irish Government’s Licencing Options given to Tamboran Resources which expired in February 2013.  What does this mean?  It means that Tamboran, once this well is drilled and the core analysed, could apply to Dublin for a full exploratory licence and claim that they have fulfilled the conditions to enable them to get one, then proceed in Leitrim and the rest of the NorthWest, even though the well drilled was in another jurisdiction.  It’s as if the opinion is – sure, there’s no difference between the geology so forget EU transborder regulations!”

GEAI wishes to put everyone on alert.  “The way this operation is approached shows the contempt of the industry for the environment, for the community, even for the law of the land.  No Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the overall proposal for shale gas exploration and extraction; no Planning Permission for exploratory drilling; no published plan for the safe operation of the process or disposal of wastes;  no Environmental Impact Assessment, no consultation with the local community or public representatives.  Ireland  – this is the tip of the iceberg – if the industry can go ahead with exploration without putting all those safeguards in place, what is in store for us if fully-fledged fracking operations start?”

ENDS

 

 

Tamboran Prepares for Drilling in Belcoo

drilling rig
It is finally happening! 

Without a Strategic Impact Assessment (SEA) of the proposals for Fracking in Northern Ireland, without Planning Permission, without consultation with residents or, indeed, public representatives, Tamboran Resources are moving in machinary to the Acheson and Glover quarry in Belcoo, County Fermanagh in order to construct a drilling pad and operate a drilling rig as part of their proposal to develop shale gas in Ireland.

According to a letter put through doors in Belcoo by Tamboran Resources on 21st July:

  • The proposal is to drill an exploratory well, 15cm (6″) wide and 750 m (2,500 ft) deep.
  • They will get core samples throughout the length of the bore which they will study to find out the gas (methane) content and its suitability for extraction.
  • There will be NO FRACKING during this stage.

What does this mean – is it safe?  Are there no consequences for the residents or environment?  The following are the steps in this exploratory stage:

  • The operator arrives on site with his first 120 trucks, security people, fencing, razor wire, etc.
  • Builds a pad.
  • Brings on the rig, lighting, cement, portacabins, toilets, generators, compressors
  • Brings on the drilling mud.
  • Drills the well through aquifer.
  • Cements in conductor and then surface casing (you hope)
  • Drills down to 750 m or further
  • Drilling waste collected according to good practice (you hope)
  • Mud and drill waste transported by truck to local waste facility (dump). (This caused radioactive monitors to go off repeatedly in the states.)  Belcoo has high Radon incidence, indicating the presence of Radium or Uranium underground.  The drill waste will be more radioactive than surface soil.

Having said all that, we are not talking about a huge volume of waste.  The core volume would be around 15 cubic metres; drilling mud will add to that.  Total volume less than an average tanker (30 cubic metres).

Environmental issues (not definitive):
  • Composition of drilling mud – chemicals transported on public roads.
  • Protection of aquifer.
  • Safe collection of drilling waste.
  • Disposal of mud drill waste with high radioactivitycontent, heavy metals and possibly petroleum products.
  • Disturbance of community, stress.
Political Response

Statement from Environment Minister Mark H Durkan:

“Under planning rules, this type of exploratory drilling may fall under ‘permitted development’. However, before the company is given permission to proceed, a full “screening” process under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations will be required to ensure that there is no potential for significant environmental impact. I will ensure that this screening process is rigorous and definitive before permitted development rights are considered.”

  • Does this mean that Tamboran Resources cannot drill before they do an EIA?
  • What is the difference between “full screening process” and an EIA?
  • What regulations?  Who determines them?
  • What are “permitted development rights”?
Other factors:
  • If the results of this operation show that the area is suitable for shale gas extraction, Tamboran Resources most likely will apply for further exploratory licences in preparation for shale gas extraction.  Such exploration operations will include high volume hydraulic fracturing (FRACKING)
  • The Petroleum Affairs Divison in Dublin have confirmed that they will accept the results of the Belcoo drilling as fulfilling the requirement of work to be carried out in the context of the Licencing Options originally granted to Tamboran, which expired in February 2013.  This would open the door for further exploratory licences to be granted for drilling in Leitrim/Cavan.

 

 

 

 

Antrim – Northern Ireland’s fracking guinea-pig?

The industry is gearing up!
Background facts – Northern Ireland
  • Exploration in Northern Ireland is administered by the N.I. Dept. of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI) who are advised by the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland.  Any person who wants to explore for, drill for or extract oil or gas in Northern Ireland must hold a Petroleum Licence granted by DETI.

  • Four Exploration licences were granted by N.I. Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) in 2011 to Tamboran (Fermanagh), Infrastrata plc (Larne Basin), Providence (Rathlin Island) and Rathlin Energy (Rathlin Basin).  (Rathlin Basin is the area encompassing Portstewart, Coleraine, Ballymoney and Ballycastle.)
  • A motion calling for a Moratorium on Fracking in Northern Ireland was passed by the Stormont Assembly in December 2012, however the Minister did not withdraw the Licences.  (Is the Northern Ireland Assembly actually a glorified Council with few powers?)
  • Recently (April 2013), a Licence was granted to CHx Ltd (An investment company associated with Aspect Energy LLC) for an extensive area around Lough Neagh.

Current Situation
WHAT CAN WE DO?
  1. Object to the planning application before 25th July!

For letter template, click HERE

Or go to http://notofracking.com/2013/07/10/object-to-the-rathlin-energy-planning-application-by-25th-july/.

  1. Email or write to DOE, to the MLAs, to Councillors, to newspapers.  Full list of contacts to be found on notofracking.com web page (above)

  2. Spread the word around and get hundreds of letters emailed or posted

This is the final week for objections, ACT NOW!

“We Deserve Better” all-Ireland Campaign

 ACTION IS NEEDED NOW
Stop Drilling and Fracking in Fermanagh! 
Email the First Minister and Deputy First Minister IMMEDIATELY.
The following text is suggested:

I call upon the Northern Ireland Executive to impose a suspension of the licensing process and all drilling or fracking associated with unconventional gas exploration in Northern Ireland in line with the Government of the Irish Republic, who are refusing to issue Exploration Licenses until the EPA all-Ireland Research Studies on the Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction are completed and considered.

Email it to:
Peter Robinson: peter.robinson@mla.niassembly.gov.uk
Martin McGuinness: martin.mcguinness@mla.niassembly.gov.uk

contaminated ground
FACTS
  • The new EPA-directed research study “The Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction (UGEE)” is a North-South initiative.  The Steering Committee includes representatives from the Geological Survey NI, DOE (Department of Environment) and DETI (Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment).  As well as representatives from Geological Survey of Ireland, Petroleum Affairs Division, Department of Energy and Dept. of Environment.
  • Over 1,300 submissions on the draft Terms of Reference for this study were received by the EPA; 600 of these came from Northern Ireland, showing the concern of the NI people.
  • In the Republic, the Minister for Energy, Pat Rabbitte, has confirmed that no Exploratory Licences, which allow drilling and fracking, will be issued until this study is completed and considered (probably 2015).  He has said many times that more research needs to be done to establish the safety of fracking, especially in relation to public health.
  • People in Northern Ireland are not being given the same protection!  DETI has issued an exploration licence for Fermanagh which incorporates a work programme, including drilling and fracking.  The Northern Ireland Government has refused to state that it will wait until the research is completed before allowing drilling and fracking.
  • Tamboran are planning to commence drilling in Fermanagh this year!
It is NOT OK to put the people of Northern Ireland at risk!
The people of Northern Ireland are entitled to the same protection as people in the South
The exploratory work programme must be stopped!

Email the Ministers!  Lets have 5,000 emails in their inboxes this week and show our strength!
And follow this up with emails to all other politicians!

Water supplies threatened by fracking

World Heritage Site

Marble Arch Caves

Fermanagh, Sligo, Leitrim and Cavan water supplies threatened by fracking

On this week, when the EU Energy Ministers are discussing unconventional gas in Europe, and Tamboran are planning to drill a 1,000m deep exploratory well in Fermanagh, a new danger from fracking in Ireland has come to light.  The water supplies of Counties Fermanagh, North Leitrim, South Donegal, North Cavan, North Sligo and Sligo Town, and the World Heritage Site at Marble Arch Caves would be under threat if hydraulic fracturing is used to extract gas from shales. This is a conclusion reached by GEAI hydrogeologist, Davide Galazzi.

 “We are playing with fire.  The shale layer where Tamboran is planning to use hydraulic fracturing is packed like a sandwich between two major aquifers, Ballyshannon Limestones and Dartry Limestones, providing water to the above areas. The Dartry Limestones are also the rock embedding the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Marble Arch, the world-wide importance of which cannot be over- emphasised.”

He warned that these aquifers could become contaminated in the process.  “During hydraulic fracturing, which uses millions of gallons of frack fluid containing toxic chemicals at high pressure, fractures (or cracks) are created in the shale to release the gas.  These fractures can go in any direction, downwards as well as upwards, and nobody can forecast how far they will travel.

In a situation where there is a very short distance between the shale and the limestone layers, a distance which is far less than the minimum threshold (700m) recommended by recent studies from the UK, there is a high risk of this fluid being forced into those aquifers during hydraulic fracturing.

In addition, the fracking area is extremely close to the locations of water supplies and actually on the shores of Lough Erne and Lough Gill, which provide water to the whole of County Fermanagh, North Leitrim, Sligo Town and surrounding villages.  There is no guarantee that water contaminated with fracking chemicals, heavy metals and volatile petroleum products could not make its way to the areas from which drinking water is sourced.”

 “We are very alarmed at this finding, which concludes that there is a high risk of contamination of the sources of our drinking water from fracking”, said Aedín McLoughlin, GEAI Director.  “The Ballyshannon and Dartry limestones extend throughout most of the licensed area.   Without any barriers between the shale layer and the limestones, these Regionally Important Aquifers are endangered by hydraulic fracturing.  The EU Water Framework Directive says that ‘Water is not a commercial product like any other, but rather, a heritage which must be protected, defended and treated as such’.  Where there is intense fracking, as is planned for Ireland, water contamination inevitably results.  We have a duty to our children and our children’s children to leave our surface and ground waters in as pure a state, or even better, than we find them.  Fracking must not be allowed to endanger that heritage.”

It is an offence to pollute groundwater under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts of 1977 and 1990.

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