Northern Ireland will not be rushed into fracking, Environment Minister Alex Attwood has insisted after Westminster gave the green light to the controversial gas extraction process in Lancashire.
The decision will see a resumption of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — by Cuadrilla, which had to close down the process after it caused two small earthquakes near Blackpool.
The process of fracking uses a mixture of water, sand and chemicals which are pumped into a well under high pressure to force gas from underground shale rocks.
Stormont Environment Minister Mr Attwood (below) insisted that decisions on fracking in Northern Ireland are strictly for the Northern Ireland Government.
Canadian-based Tamboran Resources has outlined plans to develop 60 wellpads in the Belcoo and Garrison areas of Fermanagh to produce up to 50 years’ worth of daily gas consumption.
“I have warned against a head-long rush into fracking and I repeat that today,” Mr Attwood said.
“The planning and environment issues around any energy proposal fall to the Department of the Environment.
“Those responsibilities will be robustly and faithfully honoured on any proposal for fracking. I will make sure that this applies to any action or proposal by Tamboran.
“There has been no planning application lodged to date.
“There is, of course, a wider and more fundamental issue. That is the question as to how safe is fracking. The science on this is still developing.”
Tamboran Resources has said it believes it could begin commercial production as soon as 2016. However, representatives of the company say they wouldn’t be opposed to any public inquiry which could push that schedule back. The company was granted a licence in April last year.
Canadian-based Tamboran Resources is proposing to invest £6bn developing 60 wellpads in the Belcoo-Garrison area. The company forecasts it can produce up to 50 years’ worth of daily gas consumption from fracking, providing natural gas security for supply in Northern Ireland for at least 20 years.