In September 2016, TRUK applied to the Department for the Economy (DfE) for a Petroleum Licence to evaluate the natural gas in the shale and sandstone rocks in County Fermanagh with a five-year, £30 million exploratory Work Programme.
Based on existing geological data and information from the 14 wells previously drilled (5 of which were fractured), TRUK believes there to be significant natural gas reserves in Fermanagh which could provide a local solution for security of supply in Northern Ireland for years to come.
As part of the Petroleum Licence application process TRUK has submitted a five-year Work Programme, which is currently under consultation. The proposed work programme is in two parts.
Licence Stage One
Stage 1, lasting up to 3 years, will involve drilling a scientific borehole at a single site of approximately 1 hectare in size. It will provide the first firm evidence of the potential volume of gas in the shale rock deep below the surface.
There will be no hydraulic fracturing at this stage of the Petroleum Licence.
The borehole, to a total depth of between 1,000 and 1,500 metres, is to extract rock (core) samples that will enable the Company to establish the make-up of the rocks and give credence to the calculations made from existing data.
The Company will give all details to the regulatory authorities before any work commences, who will have full access to the site before, during and after drilling.
Public access will be restricted for Health and Safety reasons but at appropriate times the Company would hope to be able to demonstrate the operation to local officials and visitors – which might include study groups etc.
Environmental monitoring will be carried out at the site before, during and after drilling. It will include noise, air quality and water quality and all other aspects of the environment (including animals and plants) as agreed with the authorities.
The Company has reinterpreted all the extensive data previously collated. This includes information from the TELLUS project commissioned by the Northern Ireland Executive and the Government of the Republic of Ireland.
All this data and the results from the analysis of the drilling from Stage One will determine whether the Company should continue to the second stage of exploration. The Company will decide whether to commit to the next stage of the programme or to withdraw – called taking the ‘drill or drop’ decision.
Licence Stage Two
Towards the end of this stage, the gas deep below the ground will be tested. Initially, TRUK will acquire, process, and interpret 3D seismic survey data, which will be used to determine the precise drilling location.
A planning application and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will be submitted to the Planning Authority. This will be subject to expert and public scrutiny.
Once the necessary consents are in place, a borehole will be drilled to test the natural gas potential of the Bundoran Shale Formation using fracturing.
If results are positive and the Company wishes to progress beyond the initial 5 year exploration period, a second Work Programme will be submitted to the Department for the Economy. This is the time when production of gas can become a reality.