Oil production locally within two years?

THE possible production of oil or gas in north Antrim has moved a step closer after Moyle Council was told about a planning application regarding a second exploration well at Ballinlea near Ballycastle.

And it has emerged that if commercially-exploitable energy reserves are found, production could start as soon as 2015 and last up to 15 years.

A firm behind the search for oil and gas has written to Moyle Council to say they had been due to submit, at the start of June, a planning application for the drilling of a second exploration well at Ballinlea.

The drill will dramatically travel almost three kilometres towards the centre of the earth in the search for energy reserves.

Ballinlea 2 as the firm calls it is a short distance away in a northern direction from the Ballinlea 1 well.

In a letter to the Council, David Montagu-Smith, Chairman of Rathlin Energy, said: ‘As your Council will be aware we have been working in your area since 2004 and drilled an exploration well in Ballinlea in 2008.

‘This initial and limited work produced encouraging results and represented the first discovery of onshore oil in the island of Ireland.

‘I am writing now to let you know that the company will be submitting, at the beginning of June, a planning application for the drilling of a second exploration well.’

The letter said leaflets have been provided to residents in the local area and in addition to the leaflet the company will be making personal contact with the residents in order to discuss and explain the issues involved.

Mr Montagu-Smith’s letter continued: ‘In February 2011 the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) granted Rathlin Energy Limited a Petroleum Licence that enables the company to continue exploration.

‘Our work to date under this licence has enabled us to gather information and to develop a more complete understanding of the subsurface geology and structure underlying our licence area.

‘In drilling a second well we hope to determine if recoverable and producible reserves are present and, if so, whether they are sufficient to justify commercial development.

‘We want to stress that this operation will use only conventional drilling techniques to assess oil or gas resources and the application will not be seeking permission to undertake hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’).’