Belfast Telegraph

US investors InfraStrata join project to explore Northern Ireland site for oil and gas

By Clare Weir

American investors are joining an oil and gas exploration project in Co Antrim, it has emerged.

InfraStrata was awarded a petroleum exploration licence for the Larne and Lough Neagh areas by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) in March 2011.

Larne Oil and Gas Limited, part of Larne Basin Exploration LLC, a recently formed US-based investment company, has signed an option agreement with InfraStrata and their joint venture partners, Brigantes Energy Limited and Terrain Energy Limited, which will complete the funding for the planned oil and gas exploration well.

InfraStrata is also a partner with Mutual Energy in a gas storage scheme at Islandmagee.

The well, the first to be considered in the licence area since 1971, is planned for part of an already-cleared site at Woodburn Forest.

However, the company has said the planned exploration activity will employ conventional methods and will not involve the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. A series of information evenings will take place in November.

Subject to being granted remaining consents for the well and drilling rig availability, it is anticipated that drilling will take place in early 2015.

Dr Andrew Hindle, chief executive of InfraStrata, said the company will continue to manage the joint venture, but will work closely with the Larne team which brings many years of oil and gas investment and technical experience in the US, the North Sea and Europe, together with a strong investment base.

"The operational activities on the site will be temporary and completed within four months and the well then plugged and abandoned and the site restored.

"Gas storage and oil and gas exploration, if successful, would be strategically important for energy security, infrastructure investment and the wider economy in Northern Ireland, whilst also providing wider benefits for the rest of the UK and Ireland.

"At present 100% of Northern Ireland's oil and gas is imported. In Northern Ireland oil and gas accounts for 91% of total final energy consumption. This includes 61% of all electricity generation."

Meanwhile, Ballymena woman Anita Gardiner has joined InfraStrata as a director and will manage the Islandmagee gas storage project.

Ms Gardiner previously spent nine years at BP in a similar role.

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