Australia’s Tamboran Resources has applied to drill a scientific borehole to gauge the shale gas potential of its acreage in Northern Ireland.
The explorer said that it would collect core samples with the 750-metre depth borehole near Belcoo in County Fermanagh.
Tamboran Resources UK director Tony Bazley stressed that the company was “fact-finding, not fracking”, and that its intention at this stage is “only to verify that the elements necessary for natural gas and its recovery are contained within the shale”.
If approved drilling would start in late August and take 30 days, the explorer said.
Bazley said that “if the indications are that there is not enough natural gas that can be released from the shale rock then we will know this quickly and almost certainly decide not to continue with our investment in Northern Ireland”.
Alternatively if signs in the target Bundoran shale formation are positive the explorer would seek to drill a vertical well between now and the end of its PL2/10 licence's term in 2016, he said.
The project has come in for criticism from both environmental campaigners and local politicians over the future possibility of hydraulic fracturing, which was placed under moratorium in 2011, and over the non-requirement of a full planning process to drill the borehole.
Last year PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimated 1.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent in potential reserves lay in Northern Ireland’s Lough Allen shale, much of which is in Fermanagh as well as elsewhere in the north-west.