Belfast Telegraph

Woodburn Forest oil test drill: Construction of controversial wellsite in Carrickfergus begins

The construction of a controversial wellsite for exploratory drilling at a Carrickfergus forest has begun - despite fierce opposition from protesters.

The controversial plans at Woodburn Forest have been met with protest from the Stop the Drill campaign group over fears it will contaminate the reservoir supplying water to homes in Belfast and Carrick.

Northern Ireland Water, which leased the site to InfraStrata, insists the project will not compromise the water supply.

The Anti-Drilling protesters were taken to court by InfraStrata over alleged trespassing and interference with its work.

But while the protesters were not banned from the site the judge warned campaigners he would grant an injunction to the company behind the project, if they blocked work getting underway.

A further update on the situation is to be given in court next week.

There were angry scenes at a Mid and East Antrim Council meeting on Monday night after more than 100 protesters shouted at councillors who backed the company's waste management plan, which formally paved the way for the borehole to go ahead.

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InfraStrata plc on Friday confirmed that construction of the wellsite at Woodburn Forest is underway.

Drilling of the well is expected to commence in May 2016.  The company said this exploratory operation by completion will have seen an investment of £4 million - £1 million directly through spend in the local economy with local contractors.

CEO of InfraStrata Dr Andrew Hindle, said: “We want to assure people that InfraStrata is committed to a safe and professional operation and the protection of the environment is foremost in both our planning and our operations.

"The exploration is conventional and will not at any time involve hydraulic fracturing (also known as ‘fracking’). InfraStrata has confirmed this in the form of a legal undertaking given to the landowner, NI Water.”

InfraStrata said the the site has been designed to "assure maximum protection for the environment".

Dr Hindle said: "The wellsite will be made fully watertight preventing any liquids on the site from penetrating the ground below and will be surrounded by a high bund to trap all fluids, for safe and professional disposal.

"This will ensure there will be no adverse impact on the Woodburn River and local water catchment. Significant and effective measures have and will be taken to safeguard the environment and local water supply and there are factsheets on our website at 

"The drilling fluid and cementing systems being employed at Woodburn Forest are commonly used throughout the world for the drilling  of  wells.

" Over  20  deep  wells  have  been  drilled  in Northern Ireland in the past 60 years using similar drilling fluid and cement compositions and InfraStrata completed a similar well in Islandmagee as recently as last year.”

The company say that the site will be "restored to its previous state" following the drilling operation.

"The borehole itself will be lined with multiple layers of steel casing and cement and at the end of the drilling operation the well will be sealed throughout and plugged with cement, and the site will be restored to its previous state as a commercial forest.

"In the event of encouraging results from the well, any re‐establishment of the site for further works, such as testing, would require planning approval from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. "

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