Rathlin Energy blames planning delay for withdrawal from licence


The chairman of Rathlin Energy, David Montagu-Smith, said yesterday his company would give up its drilling licence in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

The licence, PL3/10, shaded pink on the map, was due to expire on 14th January 2016.

In a statement on Rathlin’s website, Mr Montagu-Smith said:

“We have reached a point where there no longer remains sufficient time, under the initial phase of our Petroleum Licence, to complete the planned program of work”.

Rathlin drilled one well, Ballinlea-1, in 2008 and found non-commercial quantities of oil. Last month it announced it would soon begin abandoning the well because under the terms of planning permission the site had to be restored by April 2016.

Mr Montagu-Smith said one reason for giving back the licence was “the length and complexity of the process” for securing planning permission for a second exploration well.

The company applied in June 2013 for planning permission to drill Ballinlea-2, a 2,700m borehole, to evaluate the results of the first well. Northern Ireland’s Department of Environment said in the summer that the application was on hold awaiting an environmental statement. Local campaigners were raising money to fight the application. They were concerned it might lead to the use of hydraulic fracturing.

Mr Montagu-Smith said in the statement:

“Regrettably we have no sense of knowing when there will be a determination of the application.”

“Against the background of severely depressed world oil prices we have had to make important strategic decisions, and in view of all the uncertainties we face in Northern Ireland, especially in terms of the unforeseeable delays to our future operations, we have concluded that we cannot justify further work on our Licence at this time.”

He said Rathlin had been involved in Northern Ireland for 12 years and had believed there was potential for finding commercial oil and possibly gas in County Antrim. He said:

“The business of oil exploration in Northern Ireland, a region with little past history of the industry, was always going to be a technical challenge, and the risk of disappointment very high. It is therefore particularly regrettable that, notwithstanding the encouraging signs of oil we have found at Ballinlea, we are not going to be able, for reasons which have nothing to do with geology or our technical operations, to continue our work.”

Opponents of Rathlin’s work in Northern Ireland welcomed the news. Comments on social media included:

“Another huge victory for the anti-fracking cause in Ballinlea. Well done to those involved!”

“Great news for community at Ballinlea – now only one outstanding licence! Well done to the campaigners!”

“Delighted to hear from @PONC_NI that threat of fracking has been lifted from their community in Ballinlea.

“This is the POWER of engaged citizens fighting for a CLEAN energy revolution. There is PLAN(et) B”

“Rathlin Energy has withdrawn their planning application forBallinlea 2.WE WON!!!! Tourism not Fracking”

  • In August, Rathlin said in a statement it was withdrawing from its site at Crawberry Hill IN East Yorkshire for technical and commercial reasons. It cited the low oil price and said the costs of testing the well could not be justified.

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