Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Fergus O’Dowd today (Friday, March 8) confirmed that applications for onshore exploration licences have been received from two of the three companies that were granted onshore licensing options in February 2011 over parts of the North West Carboniferous Basin and parts of the Clare Basin.
The 2011 licensing options conferred upon the holders the first right, to apply for an exploration licence over the areas concerned. Two of the companies concerned, Tamboran Resources and Enegi, have submitted applications for a follow-on exploration licence.
In relation to the two applications received, Minister O’Dowd said “my Department will shortly commence its evaluation, focussing on the technical rationale underpinning the applications, along with the corporate information provided. Where the outcome of this stage of the evaluation is positive, further consideration of the application will then be put on hold until after the findings of the new EPA research have been published. In addition, I can confirm that I do not propose to consider applications for exploration authorisation in respect of other onshore areas until the EPA research has concluded.”
Minister O’Dowd confirmed that applications for exploration licences that proposed the use of hydraulic fracturing as part of an unconventional gas exploration programme would be subject to an environmental impact assessment. Minister O’Dowd went on to say “I have made clear for some time now that such an environmental impact assessment must be informed by the findings of further research to be commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and that no decision would be made on any proposal for the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploration drilling in Ireland until there has been time to consider the outcome of this further EPA research.”
The EPA recently announced the terms of reference for the more extensive second stage of its research into the use of hydraulic fracturing, the final results of which are expected in early 2015. The proposed terms of reference for this study are currently the subject of a Public Consultation and interested parties have until (today) 8 March 2013 to submit written comments.
Fine Gael Deputy Tony McLoughlin welcomed the move by Minsiter O’Dowd and said, “There has been much concern that these applications would be granted without any recourse to this EPA study and I have personally sought assurances from Minister O’Dowd that a hold would be put on these applications hold until after the findings of the new EPA research have been published.”