Call for monitor to oversee clean-up at Woodburn site

The drill site at Woodburn.
The drill site at Woodburn.

Campaigners are seeking assurances over the restoration of the Woodburn Forest drill site after the project returned a “dry well”.

InfraStrata, the independent petroleum exploration and gas storage company, announced last Thursday that drilling has been completed at the site on the outskirts of Carrick.

In a statement on its website, the firm reported the well was drilled to a depth of 2,000 metres and encountered two conventional sandstone reservoir intervals - the Triassic Sherwood and the Lower Permian Sandstones - but no oil.

“Wireline log analysis” calculated porosities of over 20 percent in the upper parts of the layers, but both targets were water wet.

Andrew Hindle, CEO of InfraStrata, said: “It is naturally disappointing not to have encountered a hydrocarbon accumulation and the joint venture will now fully evaluate the data collected in the well and decide where to focus its future exploration activity in the basin.

“InfraStrata and its project partners would like to thank all those involved in the operations for their hard work and dedication.

“We will now work with our local contractors to professionally restore the site.”

Responding to the statement, James Orr, director Northern Ireland Friends of the Earth, said campaigners feel vindicated.

He said: “This is fantastic news for the local community, our water, our climate and our wellbeing. The community has endured so much for nothing. Today is a time for celebration. The earth has spoken.”

Mr Orr claimed the “soul searching” begins for NI Water and the several government departments which “allowed this to happen without planning permission”.

He concluded; “It must never happen again. The democratic meltdown that allowed exploratory drilling in Woodburn can never repeated.”

The protest centred on the operation could impact on the water supply to over 1,000 streets in the Carrickfergus, Larne, Newtownabbey and north Belfast areas. However, NI Water, which leased the Woodburn site, maintained there was no threat to the water.

Stop the Drill campaigners have now written to the DAERA minister, Michelle McIlveen over the project.

The group are seeking assurances from the department’s Northern Ireland Environment Agency that the site will be properly restored following the cessation of the drilling operation.

They also requested that a representative be allowed to monitor restoration of the site, in order to ensure the proper disposal of drilling waste and that the water catchment had not been affected during the early stages of the project.