Rathlin Energy terminate exploration licence

21 10 2015

Ballinlea-Well-

From the Rathlin Energy website

TERMINATION OF LICENCE

It is with much regret that I have, as Chairman of Rathlin Energy Limited, written to the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI) giving notice to terminate our petroleum licence PL3/10, related to the Rathlin Basin. The licence, granted in 2011 for 5 years, will terminate on 14 January 2016.

The company has been involved in Northern Ireland for almost 12 years, believing there to be the potential for the discovery of oil and/or natural gas in the Rathlin Basin, Co Antrim. However, we have reached a point where there no longer remains sufficient time, under the initial phase of our Petroleum Licence, to complete the planned program of work. Against the background of severely depressed world oil prices we have had to make important strategic decisions, and in view of all the uncertainties we face in Northern Ireland, especially in terms of the unforeseeable delays to our future operations, we have concluded that we cannot justify further work on our Licence at this time.

The immediate cause for our decision is the length and complexity of the process for securing planning permission for the second exploration well we need to drill to evaluate the results of our first well at Ballinlea. That was drilled in 2008 and recovered crude oil, although not in commercial quantity. We submitted a planning application for the second well in June 2013 and, regrettably, we have no sense of knowing when there will be a determination of the application.

The business of oil exploration in Northern Ireland, a region with little past history of the industry, was always going to be a technical challenge, and the risk of disappointment very high. It is therefore particularly regrettable that, notwithstanding the encouraging signs of oil we have found at Ballinlea, we are not going to be able, for reasons which have nothing to do with geology or our technical operations, to continue our work.

At all times Rathlin has sought to conduct its business with integrity, to fulfil all our obligations punctiliously, to work closely with our local communities and to cooperate fully with the planning authorities and all the other regulatory agencies.

On behalf of the company and my colleagues I would like to express our appreciation for the support and encouragement we have had from DETI. I would also like to thank all the other individuals and organisations in Northern Ireland who have helped and supported us.

We continue to believe in the potential for Northern Ireland to develop the natural resources which could make an important contribution to the security and economic benefits of energy supply. After all the work we have done, including a significant investment in the local economy, we very much regret that the conditions needed to support the development of oil and gas potential do not currently appear to be present in Northern Ireland.

DAVID MONTAGU-SMITH
CHAIRMAN
RATHLIN ENERGY LIMITED

21 OCTOBER 2015

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Environment Minister Mark H Durkan publishes the Strategic Planning Policy Statement

1 10 2015

mark h d

In essence, this is ‘the go to guide’ for everyone involved in the local planning system. The SPPS reduces 20 separate planning policy statements to one. This provides the policy on key issues such as town centres and retail development, building in the countryside, creating and enhancing shared space, tourism, telecommunications and housing.

Significantly, it also sets in black and white, for the first time, as policy, no to unconventional hydrocarbon extraction, often referred to as fracking. This could only change in the future if the Department is satisfied that there is sufficient and robust evidence on all environmental impacts of fracking.

Mark H Durkan said: “Publishing the SPPS unlocks development potential, supports job creation and will aid economic recovery but not at the expense of our planet, environment and people. It consolidates over 800 pages of existing policy in to a single document and brings clarity and certainty to important planning matters throughout the North.

“Significantly for the first time, no to fracking is actually enshrined in policy unless there is sufficient and robust evidence of its safety on all environmental impacts. I believe this is a sensible and reasonable approach.

“The SPPS introduces a revised strategic direction for Town Centre and Retailing Policy. It advocates a ‘town centres first’ approach to the location of future retailing and town centre uses which will support and sustain vibrant town centres across the North.

“The SPPS will enable councils to be flexible in bringing forward planning policy tailored to local circumstances through their new Local Development Plans.

“The overall objective of the planning system is to further sustainable development and improve well-being for the people of the North. I believe that planning is fundamentally about creating and enhancing shared space, places where communities flourish and enjoy a sense of belonging, both now and into the future. I am confident that the SPPS and the return of planning functions to councils will help achieve that.”

Commenting on the process in producing SPPS the Minister said: “Consultation on the draft SPPS promoted a lively and constructive debate on the appropriate planning policy context for the introduction of the newly reformed two-tier planning system which came into effect on the 1 April. I have listened to what people have had to say, and taken into account the comments received. As a result, I believe the final SPPS has been much improved. There were significant issues raised which were beyond the scope of finalising the SPPS, particularly in relation to strategic policy for renewable energy and strategic policy development in the countryside. As such, I now intend to undertake a full review of these matters. This review work will incorporate extensive engagement with key stakeholders.”

Mark H Durkan concluded: “This key document will help ensure that the planning system delivers for all now and for future generations.”

Welcoming the publication of the SPPS Roisin Willmott, the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Director for Northern Ireland commented: “This is good news for our members and for Northern Ireland. The much anticipated SPPS will be a catalyst for positive change on the ground. It will greatly aid the preparation of Councils’ new local development plans, providing a clear, practical and integrated policy framework for good decisions in the long term public interest.”





Ritchie: Fracking not the way forward

12 09 2014

fracking silhouette

In  Wednesday’s meeting of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee at Westminster SDLP MP for South Down Margaret Ritchie challenged Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss about the use Fracking as a viable energy option.

 Challenging both witnesses, Ms. Ritchie, the only Northern Irish MP on the EFRA Committee, asked for a clarification on the chemicals that were added to the water and sand mix in order to create fracking fluid.

 Ms Ritchie said:

 “The UK government seem determined to proceed with fracking, no matter what the cost to the environment and the wider economy. Fracking would increase our dependence on fossil fuels at a time we need to be focusing on developing and investing in renewable energy. It is short-sighted to look to fracking as an answer, and it will divert us from EU2020 carbon reduction targets.

 “There are a number of serious risks associated with fracking – including water contamination and dangerous seismic reactions, and enough research has not been done to support the UK government’s approach. That is why the Northern Ireland Environment Minister Mark H Durkan decided not to make any decision until there is a much greater evidence base and determined that any decision to proceed now would be a mistake.

 “In 2011 there were two earthquakes in England and fracking operations were postponed until it could be established whether there was a link. While the UK government has moved very quickly to resume operations following these incidents I fully endorse the more cautious approach taken by my party colleague in Northern Ireland. We shouldn’t blindly follow the UK government into this reckless dash for gas.”





Environmental Statement required for Ballinlea application

5 07 2014

Ballinlea-Well-2008

Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has welcomed the outcome of the DOE Planners application screening determination, which has concluded that an Environmental Statement is required for the Rathlin Energy application to drill a new test well site at Ballinlea.

Councillor Cunningham said “I am particularly pleased for the Ballinlea Residents group who campaigned to ensure that an Environmental Impact Assessment which includes social, economic, environmental and public health impacts is carried out before any planning decision was made”.

Councillor Cunningham continued “The public are still have many concerns around this application , hopefully the Environmental statement will comprehensively inform the decision making process”.





Ballycastle must position itself as hub for Tidal energy jobs

11 06 2014

Tidal Turbine

SDLP Councillor and newly elected Chair of Moyle Council Dónal Cunningham has called for Ballycastle to become the hub for tidal energy research and development.

Speaking after attending a public information event with the Fair Head Tidal Energy Project who are proposing 100MW renewable energy plant powered purely by the tide.

Councillor Cunningham said ,” Tidal energy represents a commercially viable and environmentally sustainable solution to low carbon power generation. We have two significant and exciting projects in the pipeline for the tidal streams off Fair Head and Torr Head, to me it makes real business sense for the area to become a centre for marine energy research, fabrication and deployment supply chain. We need to capitalise on our unique position and natural resources to create jobs and opportunities for the area

“The Fair Head project is being developed by DP Energy and DEME solutions will generate the equivalent electricity to power an estimated 70,000 homes by 2020. The development area is centred approximately 2km to the east of Fair Head off the north Antrim coast and around 1km at its nearest point to land.”

“A lot needs to be done to strengthen our capabilities, Council, DETI, Invest NI all need to work together so that the area can support the growth and the successful delivery of the tidal energy projects and maximise the possibility of jobs which our geographical location should provide us.”

 

 





Cunningham congratulates Open Hydro

8 06 2014

 Open Hydro silent

Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has congratulated Open Hydro, part of the consortium developing a 100MW tidal energy farm off Torr Head Co Antrim, on their selection as supplier of tidal turbines in a pilot tidal project at Paimpol-Bréhat in Brittany, France .

 Councillor Cunningham a keen supporter of renewables said “This is good news for an Irish firm, it is great to know that there is international confidence in Open Hydro and it’s technology. Open Hydro’s turbines are completely submerged and not visible above sea level. We are keen that the most up to date and effective technology is deployed locally. “

 “ Two OpenHydro turbines are to be installed on the Paimpol-Bréhat site which will test their performance while connected to the grid. This will demonstrate their long-term reliability under real conditions.”





Need for robust regulations, inspection and enforcement before any further oil/gas exploration is permitted.

29 05 2014

 Ballinlea-Well-2008

 Speaking after attending a public meeting in the Dunluce Parish Centre, Bushmills organized by the Ballinlea Residents Group, SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham who is opposed to the Ballinlea No2 test well, has called for a robust regime of regulation, inspection and enforcement for the oil and gas industry before any permissions are considered to allow further exploration.

Guest speaker, Michael Hill B.Sc. C.Eng. MIET an independent chartered engineer highlighted to the meeting the deficiencies of the UK regulation system and the need for an independent on-site testing and verification regime.

Councillor Cunningham continued “Regulation, inspection and enforcement are required to protect well integrity, well leakages (vertical and horizontal) as well as leakages from flanges and flares.”

“The public have every right to be concerned that the existing regulation is inadequate. Given that Methane gas is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, and that Radon gas is the second highest cause of lung cancer, the local community needs the protection of robust and far reaching regulation.”