A petroleum exploration and gas storage company has written to Carrick Council over plans to drill a well at a site in Woodburn Forest.
InfraStrata plc was granted an exploration licence in 2011 by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment for a 663 square kilometre area covering the south-east of County Antrim.
The letter, which was noted by the local authority at a meeting on Monday night, indicates that following the successful completion of two ‘seismic surveys’ in 2011 and 2012, Infrastrata and its partners made the decision to drill the well at the site, 2.7km north of Carrickfergus.
Indicating that the process would not involve hydraulic fracturing of rocks or “fracking”, the company added that the proposal did not require planning permission due to its status as ‘permitted development’ under the Planning (General Development) order (NI) 1993.
However, under the terms of the DETI licence, the project is required to provide a report on the predicted environmental impacts ahead of any work commencing on the site.
“It is anticipated that the project environmental report will be submitted to DETI during late May/early June 2014 and InfraStrata plans to commence construction of the wellsite in September 2014,” the letter adds.
The company is also inviting responses from the borough council on the information to be covered in scientific studies, which will then form the basis of the report.
Speaking at Monday night’s meeting, Knockagh Councillor Andrew Wilson said: “Although there is no fracking involved, we need to bear in mind that this is an area of natural importance.”
The announcement comes just days before a public meeting in Whitehead, which is due to examine the impact of large-scale oil and gas exploration on small communities.
Organised by anti-fracking group No Fracking Northern Ireland, the event will include a screening of the award-winning documentary The Pipe.
Released in 2010, The Pipe tells the story of the coastal village of Rossport in County Mayo and the community’s subsequent dealings with the Shell Oil company, which sought to lay a gas pipe in the area.
Dawn Patterson from No Fracking Northern Ireland said: “The meeting is to make people aware of what is going on and get a discussion going on the impact of these developments on small communities. I think as soon as people hear that fracking won’t be involved they’re not interested, but under the terms of the exploration licence if they found a commercially viable source of gas it would be very difficult for [the Executive] to get out of that agreement.
“People in Carrick are very concerned about wind turbines, but they should be aware that something is happening that can potentially have an even bigger impact.”
The meeting will take place tonight in the Whitecliff Inn (7.00pm).