An oil and gas exploration firm is to address concerns over a planned exploration well at Woodburn Forest during two public meetings next week.
InfraStrata announced they will host the information sessions following repeated calls from environmental lobby groups.
The meetings will be led by representatives from the company’s wider project team including environmental scientists, drilling experts, and civil engineers.
Dr Andrew Hindle, CEO of InfraStrata said: “InfraStrata was keen to make these events as accessible as possible to the wider public and has organised open morning and evening sessions where people can come in at a time most suitable to them and talk directly to members of the project team.”
Addressing the apparent opposition to the project locally, Dr Hindle added: “Members of InfraStrata’s project management team visited over 70 households within a 2km radius of Woodburn Forest during June and July.
“This was the first step in ensuring that those living closest to the project were provided with information directly from the company and provided a point of contact to residents at an early stage so that any concerns could be addressed.”
Highlighting a perceived potential for fracking among lobby groups opposed to the plans, he continued: “We have been encouraged by the support for the project, but are also aware that there has been some misunderstanding that the project would involve hydraulic fracturing, commonly called ‘fracking’.
“From the outset we have publicly stated that this project will not now, or ever, involve such technology. InfraStrata will be exploring for oil and gas in porous sandstones, a process which has been undertaken throughout the UK over the past 75 years.”
“ In any event the geology is not suitable at Woodburn Forest for fracking. Following the short-term drilling, the site will be restored and trees replanted.
“If oil and gas are encountered while drilling they would not flow to the surface.
“Any re-establishing of the site for future testing (flowing to surface) of oil and gas, to establish whether it could be produced longer term commercially, would require planning permission.
“If the flows of oil or gas were found to be commercially viable then in the case of gas it would be connected into the nearby gas network for consumption in Northern Ireland.
“Oil would be piped to an oil terminal in Northern Ireland, where it would be transported on to a refinery in Great Britain or the Republic of Ireland for refining.”
With the plans classed as ‘Permitted Development’ by the Department of the Environment, the company confirmed that consent to drill had also been obtained from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in 2011.
Meanwhile, Dr Hindle indicated that Carrickfergus Borough Council will be involved in the environmental health aspects associated with the short-term exploration, such as noise monitoring.
The information sessions will take place next Wednesday, November 5 from 2pm-8pm and Thursday, November 6 from 10am – 1pm in the Imperial Suite at the Clarion Hotel.