Celebrations mark decision to abandon InfraStrata’s Woodburn oil well

woodburn celebration

Picture: Don’t Drill Antrim Water

Opponents of an exploratory oil well drilled near a reservoir that supplied water to parts of Belfast celebrated yesterday the news that it was to be abandoned.

The drilling company, InfraStrata, announced that target formations in the well in Woodburn Forest, near Carrickfergus in County Antrim, were found to be water wet. In a statement, the company said the well would be plugged and abandoned.

James Orr, Director of Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland, said:

“This is fantastic news for the local community, our water, our climate and our wellbeing.

“The community has endured so much for nothing. We feel vindicated that this harmful, worthless and ill-conceived project is now over.”

The well, drilled to a depth of 2,000 metres, led to protests and a legal challenge.

Opponents were concerned that drilling could pollute water in nearby reservoirs, although Northern Ireland Water (NI Water) said there was no risk. There were complaints that paths in Woodburn Forest had been blocked. And campaigners opposed the system of permitted development rights which allowed the well to be drilled without planning permission.

Mr Orr, who was among a group of people arrested last Sunday during a protest against the well, said drilling without planning permission must never happen again.

“The democratic meltdown that allowed exploratory drilling in Woodburn can never be repeated.”

On 6 June, the Northern Ireland Assembly debated a motion noting concerns about the well. There was criticism of Northern Ireland Water, which leased the site to InfraStrata, government departments and the local council.

Chris Hazard, the Infrastructure Minister, announced that he would change the law and require operators to make full planning applications for hydrocarbon wells, including Environmental Impact Assessments and public consultations.

The Stop the Drill campaign group said it was over for InfraStrata at Woodburn Forest but it was not over for organisations including Northern Ireland Water, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council or the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

It said:

“We’ll be reclaiming the forest and water for our people. NI Water are unfit to protect our water.”

In a statement, the chief executive of InfraStrata, Andrew Hindle, said:

“It is naturally disappointing not to have encountered a hydrocarbon accumulation and the joint venture will now fully evaluate the data collected in the well and decide where to focus its future exploration activity in the basin.”

Mr Hindle said Woodburn remained the company’s only exploration project with costs fully carried through the well. The operation completed the work programme obligations on Licence PL1/10, which recently went into its second five-year term he said.


InfraStrata statement

Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland statement

Don’t Drill Antrim Water

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2 replies »

  1. Assurances that planning permission will be required is no protection since if permission is refused, however good the reasons, the government will simply call in the application and allow it.

  2. Great to see that planning permission is being brought inline with the rest of the UK. Obviously if the planning process picks up issues with regard to the environment then the application should be killed off – not irrational arguments, but actual supported arguments by experts. If planning permission is refused based on poor understanding of the subject (Lancs DCC councillors asked for depth restrictions right in the middle of the aquifer formation, wtf, and another shouted at the chamber about legacy issues even though the available evidence form the UK says this isn’t an issue and it points to the councillor not understanding the difference between conventional and shale) or councillors making up subjects themselves (i.e. the Yorkshire meeting where one councillor asked for legal advice regarding the precautionary principle and was told that since experts agreed it was low risk it did not apply, and then still used it to vote against it) then no one should be in any doubt that they will be at risk of being overturned.

    Also great to see another well in the UK drilled on time and budget and without anything for the protesters to really point at.

    They’ve called mass destruction and alien invasion, death by dragons, wrath of demon spirits etc against every well drilled in the UK over the past half decade and yet each one ultimately passes on by. Great to see and easy to understand for anyone who has ever done it.

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