The terms of reference for the second and more detailed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) research are currently being drawn up by a steering group, that’s according to the Minister for Energy, Communications and Natural Resources following a parliamentary reply to Sligo North Leitrim Deputy Tony Mc Loughlin.
Minister Rabbitte confirmed that the steering group will be made up of representatives from the EPA, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, Department of Environment, Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Commission for Energy Regulation, An Bord Pleanála and his Department including the Office of the Geological Survey of Ireland.
The objectives of this further research are to establish if shale gas exploration and extraction involving the use of the fracking technique can be carried out in a manner that will not cause significant environmental pollution.
To identify all possible environmental risks associated with the fracking technique and to ascertain if these risks are manageable and to identify best practice with respect to environmental protection for the use of the hydraulic fracturing technique for the exploration and extraction of shale gas.
It is anticipated that following the engagement of the relevant experts, the study will take in excess of twelve months to complete, leading to a potential publication date in 2014.
Fine Gael TD McLoughlin was reminded again by the Minister in his reply that in February 2011, onshore petroleum licensing options were awarded to Tamboran Resources PTY Ltd (over parts of counties Cavan, Leitrim and Sligo); Lough Allen Natural Gas Company Ltd (over parts of counties Cavan, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo) and Enegi Oil plc (over parts of County Clare).
All three were granted for a two-year period commencing on 1st March 2011 and ending on 28th February 2013. These Licensing Options are preliminary authorisations and the agreed work programmes allow the companies assess the petroleum potential of the acreage largely based on studies of existing data.
In conclusion the Minister emphasised that the only works authorised by his Department are the work programmes relating to these three Licensing Options, which are not exploration authorisations and no applications have been made to date proposing the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploration drilling.
Minister Rabbitte stated again to Deputy Mc Loughlin that the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploration drilling will not be authorised until there has been time to consider the second stage of the EPA research which as he stated earlier will not be completed until 2014.
“I want to welcome the Minister’s detailed reply and I am pleased to see that this further report will examine the main areas of concern that the people of Leitrim, Sligo and Fermanagh have in relation to the fracking process and that it will be a report that will have considerable time to examine the relevant issues” concluded Deputy Mc Loughlin.