"This is one of the most important stories of it's kind in Europe."
THE international exploration company behind plans to carry out gas 'fracking' in Ireland has never used the controversial process commercially before.
And Australian firm Tamboran Resources will have to attract a major investor or it will never get the €7bn project off the ground.
It has been granted option licences, permitting it to carry out testing in Co Leitrim, Co Cavan and Co Fermanagh.
However, the Irish Independent has learned that the company only has a handful of staff scattered across three continents and doesn't yet have the €7bn funds to carry out a full-scale commercial project.
The company is a consortium employing just 18 people, mainly living in Australia, New Zealand and the US.
While Tamboran also holds exploration licences in the Australian Northern Territory and in Botswana, it has yet to carry out 'fracking' on a commercial gas field.
It will also have to attract in much larger multinational exploration companies, such as Exxon or Shell, if it wants to progress its plans to drill for gas here. To do this, Tamboran will have to convince one of these major firms it has a good gas field on its hands.
The process known as 'fracking' involves forcing up to 10 million gallons of fluid as far as 1,000 metres below the surface to crack open rock formations. The gas found in the shale below the rocks is then channelled back to a well on the surface.
However, pollution can occur if seals break in the vertical pipeline underground, which runs through aquifers and other water supplies.
Tamboran's accounts indicate that it will have to raise significant amounts of money if it wants to progress its plans to drill for gas in Co Leitrim.
According to a report from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission's database, Tamboran Resources was registered in Victoria in 2009.
The company, which is not listed on the stock exchange, has a share structure of more than €30m, shared among 38 mainly Australian-based shareholders.
Tamboran has still not raised the €70m it needs to enable it to expand its exploration activities. And recently published emails from energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts voice scepticism about lofty forecasts on 'fracking' for gas.
The 'fracking' process has also been heavily criticised by environmental groups, who claim that it can lead to water contamination and illnesses in humans and animals.
Last May, France became the first country to ban 'fracking', while a moratorium has been placed on the method in New York state.
Tamboran said it won't use chemicals in its fracking fluid, only water, but this has never been done successfully.
The company has now hired a high-profile former government media adviser, Dan Pender, to help with the public relations battle. Mr Pender said yesterday the company would not be making any comment at the moment, beyond its recent statement in which it said it planned to invest up to €7bn and could create 600 jobs.