‘Protect our Coast and Glens’ group Carrickfergus

In East Antrim a company called Infrastrata has been given permission to explore for oil and gas in this area and work will begin in Sept/Oct 2014.  We are very concerned that there has been minimal public information or consultation.

This exploratory test borehole:

  • Is to be drilled to a depth of 2000m beside North Woodburn dam.
  • The four reservoirs at Woodburn all are connected by North Woodburn valley that is an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI).
  • All 4 reservoirs are used as sources that feed Dorisland Water Treatment Works and distributed to customers in Carrickfergus, Islandmagee, North Belfast and Newtonabbey.


Who are Infrastrata?

Infrastrata are a small petroleum exploration company who hold licenses in two areas in the UK, in Dorset, England and Antrim, Northern Ireland.  Their website www.infrastrata.co.uk has very limited information and we can not examine their track record in safety and environmental issues as it appears that they have not yet drilled a single producing well anywhere in the world.   Exploration is a very expensive process, these smaller exploration companies often buy up licenses and then later resell to larger companies who can afford to extract oil and gas on a commercial scale.

What is an exploratory well?

Companies who have bought the licenses for Northern Ireland now want to collect data and rock samples from thousands of meters below ground so they can see if it would be commercially viable or not.   With this they can then encourage investment from outside sources to take the project further.  The same thing it is also happening in Ballycastle (Ballinlea) and in Fermanagh (Belcoo) and across the rest of the UK.  Thus such exploration companies can make promises to the public that they do not intend on unconventional energy extraction or ‘Fracking’- as it is likely that they never intend to extract anything but sell the license on.

The Exploratory Drill

This drill site will require a 3 acre area within Woodburn forest, outside Carrickfergus.  The 9 inch drill to the depth of 2000 m is planned to reach the hard Permian rock.  InfraStrata claims that no hydraulic fracturing will be involved, but has not ruled out simulated hydraulic fracturing.  Even with the “conventional drilling” they will use vast amounts of water to cool the drill, and there will be airborn and noise pollution. The quantity and source of water they will use to drill is not in the public domain, nor is it in their submission to the authorities. They cannot guarantee that it will be discharge free and that it will not harm the environment.   This planned drill is 400metres uphill from one of our public drinking supply reservoirs.

We are also concerned about the existing underground Salt Mines within the Carrickfergus, which have been liable to subside in the past.  What impact would earth tremors caused by deep drilling have?

The lack of Public Consultation

It greatly alarmed us to discover that families 200m from the site were, until recently, unaware that this test drill has been given permission.  To carry out a test drill in England, Scotland & Wales there is much more rigorous planning applications required.  However in NI our regulation has not been updated and exploratory borehole can be drilled under what is known as ‘permitted development’ (PD) without the need to apply for full planning permission. This means that ordinary local people have been denied their democratic right to discuss, scrutinize, or put in planning objections to such development.

 “Its just a test drill” so shouldn’t we just let them explore?

We are concerned as to what exactly they are exploring for.  The company Infrastrata have stated they are not interested in carrying out Fracking- yet their actions contradict this.   They are intending to test drill right down to the Shale layer of rock (type of rock where gas can be stored). The company currently drilling in Fermanagh stated publicly that they aimed to attempt Fracking in a huge area of Fermanagh (6000 wellpads) and is now facing mass public resistance.  It is possible that Infrastrata has learned from Tamborans mistake and is going for a different approach.

With drills at Ballinlea and Carrickfergus- are these the first steps to developing unconventional gas in Antrim?

An exploration borehole is the first step in developing a gas industry.  These companies will want financial return. This is the first step in a path that leads to the oil and gas industry moving in, after permitting the first well it would be difficult for DETI to backtrack and not allow them to proceed.  As Shale gas differs greatly from area to area, one test borehole will never be enough to prove commercial viability in such a large area, and many, many more would need to be drilled before this company could even say with certainty that gas could be extracted.

Our Concerns about the test drill at Woodburn:

  • The location of this borehole- on publicly owned land (Water Service), with no public consultation or communication.  We wish to question who within this Public Body gave permission for this to be on public land and if this decision is legal?
  • The borehole is planned 400m from a large drinking water source, meaning large amounts of trucks, drilling equipment, wastewater, drilling chemicals
  • The location of the site means it can take place hidden from the public scrutiny as the site will be surrounded by tall trees
  • The ground is already unstable in parts of Carrick due to decades of salt mining under the surface, similar drilling in Lancashire in 2011 caused two earthquakes

Our Concerns with developing an unconventional industry in NI

  • Vast amounts of fresh water that would be needed to carry out this process.  How will the toxic wastewater be prevented from entering our groundwater system?  Where would it be processed?
  • We are worried about the effect on human health with the massive amounts of wastewater produced and air pollution that is created by large scale production
  • Northern Irelands environmental protection is simply not fit for purpose and has no expertise in regulation of an area such as this
  • To be commercially viable this type of industry must happen on a massive scale- or not at all.  We are simply not the same as Australia or America and simply do not have the landmass for this to occur at all.
  • We are worried that our local government do not have the expertise to regulate this and will be blinded with empty promises of jobs, when the reality would be imported short-term expert labour teams.
  • Our two most successful industries, Farming and Tourism could be decimated due to contamination scares in food and the fact that this industry would certainly spoil our scenery.
  • The vast investment required means that now even the oil industry CEO’s have said it will never create a cheaper fuel source.
  • Fracking will not mean that we would have security of supply.  The amounts of gas produced would be too small to have any major impact on energy security.  It is a very short sighted risky solution that would leave us with very long term irreversible consequences.

Are you concerned that Fracking by stealth is being brought into our community?

Infrastrata have employed a PR firm to educate us about this, we think it is more important that we inform ourselves and see a balance of opinion.

Even if you feel that such development would be only a positive thing for Carrickfergus, it is important that the community are engaged and consulted to ensure that existing environmental regulations and public safety measures are being followed.  We believe that putting an exploratory well 400m from our drinking water source is not an adequate safety measure and a displays a dismissive attitude to what is a very valid concern.

Are you concerned? Then please join us.

Lock your area to Unconventional Gas with our Lock the Gate campaign!

What is the Lock the gate campaign?

Australia, has had unconventional Gas extraction taking place in it across huge regions and the results have been devastating, in terms of Human Health, Enviornmental health and exacerbating water shortages.  An incredible 54% of the land mass of Australia is now covered by oil and Gas licences.  Communities have realized that their Government and big business is not going to protect them and that they need to become the regulators.

This campaign began in The Northern Regions that had experienced huge development of their rural areas for ‘Coal Seam Gasification’ (CSG) an extreme energy extraction method similar to Fracking.  Community groups got together and united against this industry to stand and say that although the Company have Government permission and planning permission on paper- they do not have the social or moral permission from the local people that live there and that would bear the costs of such development.


lock the gate

This campaign has had many successes in blocking such development, and we are going to follow the style of their campaign for Antrim.  We intend to Protect our Coast and Glens.

The mission of the Lock the Gate Alliance is to protect Northern Irelands natural, cultural and agricultural resources from inappropriate mining and to educate and empower our communities to stand against it before it is too late.

Starting from the drillsite in Woodburn Forest, Carrickfergus we intend to go door-to-door and engage with the local community on this issue, raising awareness and asking people the question:

Do you want Unconventional Gas development in your area?

Once 80% of people on a street agree that they do not want this- we declare that street is ‘LOCKED” to unconventional gas development.  We will then use growing awareness to put pressure on local politicians and on the companies themselves.  This is a tried and tested method and makes areas look very unwelcoming to companies who have a very limited budget.  The joining of the community in Fermanagh, already shows the power such action can have.  We can stop this industry in its tracks.

The Lock the Gate campaign in Antrim is committed in all its activities to the following principles:

  1. Robust scientific      assessment, the precautionary principle and the principle of      intergenerational equity should guide decision-making.
  2. Landholders and communities      should have the right to reject mining developments which they consider      unsuitable.
  3. Exploration companies should      be legally subject to the highest standards of openness, transparency and      accountability.
  4. Members and supporters should      aim to act responsibly at all times and in accordance with principles of      peacefulness and compassion.

If you wish to get in touch and find out more please email us at co.antrimlockmygate@gmail.come

Are you involved in any clubs, schools, Churches or business in Carrickfergus, would you like us to come and do a short talk on unconventional Gas and what is happening in Antrim?







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