Posted on Wednesday 18 April 2012 by Ulster Business

Ireland Leases

Tamboran's proposed sites

An Australian-owned company with rights to search for shale gas in Fermanagh has welcomed an independent UK report approving the practice of fracking, but opposition to its proposals remains strong.

Energy company Tamboran Resources was responding to a study commissioned by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change and carried out by independent scientific experts, who made a number of key recommendations to the Government to enhance existing regulation of fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is where a well is drilled hundreds of metres deep and pumped full of water, sand and chemicals to release methane gas.

The process was stopped in England last year after a company drilling near Blackpool caused two small earthquakes. Fracking has also been accused of causing pollution to water supplies.

But the Government-commissioned report recommended that fracking can continue with care, which means hundreds of new wells could be constructed.

Key conclusions included recognition that the fracking procedure should include a smaller pre-injection and monitoring test stage before the main fracking; that the fracture’s growth and direction should be continuously monitored; and that fracking operations should be subject to an effective monitoring system to control tremors.

Tamboran is currently carrying out preliminary analysis tests on the underground shale in a site in the south-west of Fermanagh and north Leitrim. It holds exploration licences for an area which it estimates has potential recoverable reserves of 4.4 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The company says the find could ensure security of gas supply to the whole of country for the next 40 years in the Republic and for 50 years in Northern Ireland, and that its project could create up to 1,200 direct jobs if given the green light.

Richard Moorman, CEO of Tamboran Resources said: “We are encouraged by the recommendations made by the review panel and will take the time to review them in detail over the coming days. Strict regulation is needed to provide the public with confidence and assurance that operators will be held to the highest standards of operations.

“The energy which shale gas can provide is very important to reducing energy costs in the UK and Ireland. This resource is far too important and operations must be conducted properly for everyone's benefit.’

“Tamboran is pleased to see that the recommendations include criteria which we have been committed to from the onset of our project. 3D seismic data must be gathered to understand the geology and mitigate the risk of earth tremors which can be associated with hydraulic fracturing.”

Mr Moorman said the company wanted to enter into “constructive dialogues” with the public to ensure their concerns were understood and added that it has already begun an Environmental Impact Assessment to monitor water, land and air quality and demonstrate its activities don’t impact the environment.

He also stressed that shale gas should be viewed as an “effective transition fuel” and an ideal partner to renewables such as solar and wind power.

However, residents groups and environmental group Friends of the Earth remain firmly opposed to the project and were unimpressed by the UK Government report.

The organisation’s director for Northern Ireland, James Orr, said: “Earth tremors aren’t the only risks associated with fracking - it’s also been linked to air and water pollution, problems with human health and produces gas that causes climate change. There should be a full scientific assessment of all the impacts of fracking, a short consultation on one of the problems is completely inadequate.

“We should be developing the huge potential of local energy from the sun, wind and waves, not more dirty and dangerous fossil fuels. We don’t need earth tremor-causing fracking to meet our power needs - we need a seismic shift in energy policy.”

Mr Orr also suggested that Northern Ireland had a poor record when it came to energy regulation: “If we can't regulate what's on top of the ground how on earth can we regulate fracking for gas half a mile below the surface of the ground.”

Environment Minister Alex Attwood also said that the decision on whether he would give the go ahead for drilling in Fermanagh would not be rushed.

“To simply adopt an approach that if gas exists in this form underground, for example in Fermanagh, it should be extracted, is a risk. This is a narrow approach. The right approach is to ask do we want to or need to extract the gas and can it be done safely? These are the standards against which to judge fracking. A rush to fracking is ill judged,” he said.

“I will consider this latest report, noting that its content is limited to the issue of earth tremors and does not address other issues and concerns around fracking.

“I have always said that all appropriate planning and environmental standards will strictly apply on the issue of fracking. As planning and environment Minister this approach will not be compromised. I continue to work with the Dublin government on the issue given that the Lough Allen basin is a shared cross border asset. I have also met Tamboran and made clear my approach.”

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