Moyle Council gets ‘fracking’ response

THE Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) believes that existing regulations provide adequate control for any potential ‘fracking’ issues in the Moyle area.

Concern has been expressed in some quarters about the practice and Moyle Council recently wrote to the government.

Now, DETI has responded saying that along with the other regulatory authorities in Northern Ireland, it is reviewing how regulations might be best applied to shale gas exploration and production.

A letter to the Moyle Council from Sam McAllister (Minerals and Petroleum Branch) stated he referred to Mr Mawdsley’s letter from Moyle Council, dated 21 November 2011, regarding their council’s opposition to Hydraulic Fracturing.

Mr McAllister’s letter said Moyle Council had stated that ‘the Council regards fracking and the risks associated with it as environmentally unacceptable and has concerns that current health and safety regulations are not able to property control the process.

Mr McAllister said: ‘Hydraulic Fracturing, or fracking, is a well established method of enhancing the natural permeability of rocks in order to improve the flow of gas or water through them. It is used extensively in shale gas operations which are now responsible for over 30% of US gas production.

‘DETI believes that existing regulations would provide adequate control for fracking but, along with the other regulatory authorities in Northern Ireland, it is reviewing how these might best be applied to shale gas exploration and production.

‘The regulatory authorities will also be assessing the outcomes and recommendations arising out of recent and current studies of shale gas and fracking, with a view to adopting specific mandatory standards and procedures to control any future shale gas operations.

‘No applications have been received to carry out hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in Northern Ireland, nor is any petroleum lincensee likely to be in a position to submit such an application for at least 18 months, so it is premature to draw any conclusions about the regulatory control of such activities.

‘The two companies, who hold petroleum licences in Moyle District Council area, are focussing their exploration on conventional oil and gas targets in Permo-Traissic sandstones similar to those that form the reservoirs in the long-established East Irish Sea and Southern North Sea gas basins.

‘No exploration drilling can be carried out without additional consents from several regulatory authorities including DETI (Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment), HSENI (Health and Safety Executives of Northern Ireland), Planning Service and NIEA (Northern Ireland Environment Agency).

“I hope this allays some of your concerns and that you can be assured that officials are closely monitoring developments in Great Britain, Europe and elsewhere with regard to the various environmental issues and will work closely with the Department of Engery and Climate Change (DECC) to ensure a consistent UK policy regarding the application of hydraulic fracturing,” Mr McAllister’s letter told Moyle Council.