Residents to form group over well plans

Dawn Patterson and Aisling Cowan speaking at a public information meeting regarding Infrastrata's plan to start test drilling at Woodburn. INCT 25-106-GR
Dawn Patterson and Aisling Cowan speaking at a public information meeting regarding Infrastrata's plan to start test drilling at Woodburn. INCT 25-106-GR

A residents’ group is to be formed in East Antrim following concerns over oil exploration drilling at a site in Woodburn Forest.

It comes after a public meeting in the Windrose last week, organised by No Fracking Northern Ireland.

The information session was organised after oil exploration and gas storage company Infrastrata revealed the plans to drill an exploratory well at the rural site.

The company was originally granted a licence in 2011 to carry out a series of seismic studies in a large portion of south-east County Antrim known as the Larne-Lough Neagh Basin.

In a letter to the local authority, the firm indicated that construction of the well site at Woodburn would begin in September this year, adding that the process would not involve hydraulic fracturing of rocks or “fracking”.

This was reiterated in a statement to the Carrick Times this week. Commenting on their well location, Dr Andrew Hindle, InfraStrata CEO, said: “A site at Woodburn Forest, two miles northwest of Carrickfergus, has been carefully selected to minimise the impact on neighbours while being suitable to reach the subsurface target area which is 6,500 feet below the forest. The well will provide new data to improve the understanding of the deep geology of County Antrim below the basalts.

“The planned exploration activity – and any subsequent approved development – would be undertaken by conventional methods exploring for oil and gas in porous sandstone reservoirs and would not involve hydraulic fracturing, also known as ‘fracking’.”

The company also indicated that it would liaise with local residents prior to the next stage of exploration commencing.

However, the nature of the licence granted to Infrastrata has been queried by members of the No Fracking group, with the information session organised at the Windrose following an initial meeting in Whitehead at Easter.

In a statement prior to the second meeting, the group claimed: “It would seem that under the terms of the exploration licence, if [Infrastrata] found a commercially viable source of gas and then needed to use a more unconventional approach, such as the highly contentious method of fracking, it would be very difficult [for the NI Executive] to get out of that agreement.”

Speaking to the Times last week, Newtownabbey woman Dawn Patterson from No Fracking Northern Ireland said: “The meeting went very well and we had about 40 in attendance; some were at the Whitehead meeting but most were new to the whole thing.

“Although a lot of people were not overly concerned about the exploration well in Woodburn, most of them were worried about the long-term plans at the site and what would happen if Infrastrata did find something.

“Everyone who attended the meeting was very keen to know more about the exploration plans and some of them have talked about setting up an East Antrim residents’ group.

“We’re planning another public meeting some time during the summer but in the meantime we need Infrastrata to come out and talk with people in the area about these plans. It’s the lack of information that’s worrying most people.”