Major oil discovery off Rathlin

Major oil discovery off Rathlin

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.

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.


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