Why do you think there may be hydrocarbons in areas of Northern Ireland?
Northern Ireland has a similar geological makeup to other areas across the UK where oil and gas has been found. The geology suggests that the prospect of hydrocarbons deep below the surface of Northern Ireland is high. The Petroleum Licence would allow us to investigate this prospect.
Is this fracking?
No. This is not High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing, otherwise known as fracking. We are searching for conventional resources of oil and gas, not unconventional resources such as shale gas.
Our project will employ techniques used on leading exploration sites across the globe, which will reduce environmental impact and avoid unnecessary drilling.
In what areas will you be working initially?
The area we will be investigating is the South Lough Neagh Basin, which covers the south part of Co Antrim, some of Co Down, the north part of Co Armagh and the eastern part of Co Tyrone.
Lough Neagh itself does not form part of the area of the application and no exploration will take place on, in or under the Lough itself.
Our soil sampling technique will help us to determine which areas are best suited for further exploration. It is too early to say exactly where the most significant hydrocarbon resources may be. This process will allow us to significantly reduce the area of exploration.
Will you be drilling into land?
No exploration wells will be drilled in the first three years of the project. Our initial work will comprise soil sampling and seismic surveying to identify where hydrocarbon resources may be.
If this work highlights an area which would be suitable for the drilling of an exploration borehole, we will then inform the Department for the Economy of our intention to proceed in that way. Any drilling will also require planning permission, and an application will be submitted to the relevant planning authority for consent to proceed.
Only when we have all of the necessary permissions secured, that is when the Waste Management Plan and application for a consent under the Water (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 and the notification to the Health & Safety Executive NI (HSENI) have satisfied the requirements of both the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and HSENI and planning permission has been granted by the relevant local District Council, will the Department make a final decision on our application for Consent to Drill.
If we are granted the permission needed to undertake exploratory drilling we intend to use slimhole drilling. This process is considerably less intrusive than standard exploration drilling techniques.
Slimhole exploratory drilling, along with the soil sampling and seismic imaging, will allow us to establish the existence of hydrocarbons with the least possible impact on the environment and surrounding area.
How long would your Petroleum Licence last?
The Petroleum Licence would be granted for an initial five year period. This gives time to carry out the initial exploration process before progressing to the drilling of an exploratory well.
After three years have passed we would have to indicate to the Department for the Economy whether we plan to ‘drill or drop’, which means we apply for consent for exploratory drilling or relinquish the Petroleum Licence.
Do you need planning permission at each stage of your project?
Planning permission will be required to undertake exploratory drilling and we will work within the planning parameters throughout. Any planning application will be dealt with by the relevant planning authority.
Have there been any previous onshore exploration in Northern Ireland or in the UK?
In Northern Ireland there have been 34 onshore licences and 16 exploration wells drilled since 1965, while in Great Britain there has been considerably more exploration. In the last 100 years more than 1400 wells have been drilled and there are 32 conventional oil and gas fields.
In Northern Ireland there is one current petroleum licence and in Great Britain there are 136 current onshore licences.
How will you minimise any risk to water?
We will implement a water management plan and areas of importance, in terms of water will be avoided and protected through exclusion zones, which will be determined in consultation with NI Water, NIEA, Rivers Agency and other relevant bodies.
Proposed exploration area