If commercially-exploitable reserves of oil or gas are confirmed in north Antrim production could start as soon as 2015 and last up to 15 years, it has emerged.
A firm behind the search for oil and gas has written to Ballycastle-based Moyle Council to say they are, this month, due to submit a planning application for the drilling of a second exploration well at Ballinlea near the town — which is the site of the first discovery of onshore oil on the island of Ireland.
The drill will travel almost three kilometres towards the centre of the earth in the search for energy reserves to see if there is enough oil to make extraction financially viable.
Ballinlea 2, as the firm calls it, is at Kilmaghogue Road a short distance from the Ballinlea 1 well.
In a letter to Moyle 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 work produced encouraging results and represented the first discovery of onshore oil in 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.
“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’).”