Major oil discovery off Rathlin

Published Thursday, 24 January 2013
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An Irish oil exploration company says that there could be over half a billion barrels of oil under the sea in the Rathlin Sound area, off the north Antrim coast.

Major oil discovery off Rathlin
The map shows the explorations areas throughout Ireland. (© Providence Resources)

Providence Resources said that the area could be drilled from an onshore location, with high level potential surface well locations currently being evaluated.

The company is currently leading a major drilling programme on a number of exploration/development wells around the coast of Ireland.

Costing around $500m, the multi-year drilling investigation is taking place across six different basins.

Providence Resources say it is the largest drilling campaign ever carried out offshore around the island.

Last year, the firm acquired a Full Tensor Gradiometry (FTG) and magnetic airborne survey which highlighted an area called 'Polaries Prospect' as prospective for hydrocarbon exploration.

John O'Sullivan, Technical Director of Providence, said: "We continue to be very encouraged by the results of the recent FTG programme, which has exceeded our pre-survey expectations."

The Rathlin Basin has always been considered prospective due to the presence of a rich oil prone source rock, however poor seismic imaging has historically rendered it difficult to determine the basin's true hydrocarbon entrapment potential.

John O'Sullivan, Providence Resources

"We believe that our application of new technologies such as Full Tensor Gradiometry should allow for a complete re-assessment of this frontier basin. We have now commenced planning for a future drilling programme in 2014, which includes necessary site investigations, local permitting requirements together with regulatory and local stakeholder liaison," he said.

He added that the planned drilling operation forms part of Providence's ongoing multi-basin drilling programme which began last year, with the successful appraisal of the Barryroe oil field in the Celtic Sea off the Cork coast.

"Drilling operations planned for 2013 include the upcoming deepwater exploration well on the Dunquin prospect, an appraisal well on the Spanish Point gas condensate discovery and an exploration well in the Kish Bank Basin. In 2014, we plan to drill an exploration well on the Polaris Prospect and an appraisal well on the Dragon gas field."

Reacting to the announcement, James Orr, Friends of the Earth's NI director, said: "We would be supportive of anyone in that community who would be opposed to this retrograde step."

Mr Orr said Northern Ireland should use the sea near Rathlin to become a major producer of tidal energy rather than relying on fossil fuels.

"It is an area with some of the best tidal energy resources and some of the best wind energy resources, not just in Ireland but in Europe," he said.

"We should be exploiting those for clean and green energy. The exploitation of the remaining oil and gas resources around Ireland is very counter-productive."

There is no way to ensure that drilling and oil extraction is 100 per cent safe and if we allow this drilling to go ahead we are putting the whole of the North Coast and Rathlin Island right in the path of devastation.

Green MLA for North Down Steven Agnew

Green MLA Steven Agnew has also expressed grave concerns following the announcement.

"The area where these oil exploration licences apply have been identified as both a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation," he said.

"Providence Resources boast that this will be the largest drilling campaign ever carried out offshore of the Island of Ireland and I believe that we are sleepwalking into disaster with few benefits for the local community."

He continued: "Rathlin is home to a huge variety of birds and there is an internationally-important RSPB nature reserve.

"Rathlin Island is dependent on tourist trade and drilling for oil could have a devastating effect on its micro-economy.

"Much of Northern Ireland's economy depends on our tourism trade and to put this whole area at risk like this is simply unacceptable," he added.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
36 Comments
Bernard Davey in Newcastle Co.Down wrote (578 days ago):
Ratlin Island is considered a paradise. No good will come of extracting oil from Rathlin Sound. Tidal energy is the best way forward.
Captain Jack Sparrow in Aboard the Black Pearl wrote (631 days ago):
Ady - me Crusty Old Sea Dog, have ye never looked at a marine chart of these here waters? Arrrhh, I'll wager ye canny tell yer port from yer starbord ye landlubber ye! Back to yer nautical journals till ye learn the customs of these islands & territories methinks!! Arghhh
Ady in a sub-marine wrote (632 days ago):
@ OH Really...From every article I have read on the subject of Maritime rights regarding the island of Ireland you are 100% correct. In their haste to form their gerrymandered "Statelet" the mandarins in the home-office named only the boroughs and counties of the "chosen" six counties neglecting the maritime claim. The issue was first brought to attention by a very distraught Carson in the 1920's. The issue also arose in the 1970's regarding Lough swilly when N.I ministers threatened Irish fishermen with arrest by the RUC.
jim in s'land wrote (634 days ago):
Anyone who believes that this will bring even the slightest benefit to the local community at no environmental cost is exhibiting astronomical naivety. Foreign multinationals will come with their own workers (who may well fill a few B&Bs for a while) take the money and run. And if there's a few spillages along the way, they'll just pay the fines and say sorry.
Oh Really! in North Antrim wrote (634 days ago):
Regards the ownership of the waters around N.Ireland, can I point out that every lighthouse on the Northern Irish coast is owned and operated by Irish Lights, who are Dublin based. Also, a few years ago, Reg Empey was very keen to allow a private energy company to erest a large number of wind turbines on the seabed of the Tuns Bank just outside Lough Foyle. The ROI government objected and it was shelved. I have no doubt Empey would have forced this through if he could have. The story goes that when Partition happened in 1921 the powers that be forgot to include the seabed around NI and that as a consequence it still belongs to the ROI SO Empey was thwarted. Obviously if this is true it will have a dramatic effect on the Rathlin oil development.
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