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.
“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.
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