"The government has relinquished control over the offshore areas of our industry. Norway was tough regarding oil companies from the start. You now have an almost embarrassingly large pension fund. The situation for Irish communities, however, is as in Ogoniland in Nigeria - oil is a curse,”
THE international exploration company behind plans to carry out gas 'fracking' in Leitrim and the Lough Allen Basin 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 reported recently 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.
SligoToday.ie understands that Tamboran will therefore be unable to stand by their publicly declared promise not to use chemicals in the process here. Once they carry out the exploration phase, their involvement will cease and the new drilling company will proceed 'as normal' and free to use over 500 varied chemicals to extract the gas. They may even use the new 'Super Fracking' process - See SligoToday.ie 23/1/12
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.
Several county councils, including Sligo, have placed a ban on the process however these bans can be swiftly overruled by the Government leaving the councils powerless to take action against the drilling companies.
Tamboran said it won't use chemicals in its fracking fluid in the Lough Allen basin, 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.
Multi-million dollar lawsuit
Tamboran's chief executive Richard Moorman was previously employed at a US-based gas exploration company which is at the centre of a multi-million dollar lawsuit by families in Pennsylvania for alleged contamination of tapwater with cancer-causing chemicals.
Families living close to fracking rigs claim something went wrong during the fracking process and chemicals loaded with heavy metals and carcinogens entered their wells.
Separately, residents in Arkansas have also taken legal action against the same company, Southwestern Energy, claiming the equivalent of €6m damages, alleging the company contaminated their drinking water wells.
The claims are being denied by Southwestern Energy.
Mr Moorman, an engineer, has worked for several US and Canada-based unconventional exploration companies over the past 20 years. He left Southwestern Energy in 2008 to head up the Tamboran group.
Mr Moorman has pledged that Tamboran will take a range of measures to ensure the health and safety of Leitrim residents.
Tamboran's chairman is Australian-born Patrick Elliott, and he has been involved in oil and gas exploration in that country for many years.
The task of convincing locals about the scheme will be daunting as new studies claim that human and animal health is seriously endangered by gas fracking operations.
Researchers from Cornell University in New York have just published a major peer-reviewed paper warning about health effects of fracking.
The report 'Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health' details 24 cases of animal and owner health problems with potential links to natural gas extraction operations in six US states.
"The most commonly reported symptoms were associated with reproduction. Cattle that have been exposed to wastewater . . . or affected well or pond water may have trouble breeding.
"When cows were likewise exposed, farmers reported an increased incidence of stillborn calves with and without congenital abnormalities (cleft palate, white and blue eyes)."
The most dramatic case was the death of 17 cows within one hour from direct exposure to hydraulic fracturing fluid.
Tamboran executives have dismissed these reports.
New PR man
The newly appointed public relations man Dan Pender is a former Irish Government adviser.
For more than four years, Pender
was a ministerial press and policy adviser in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the
Department of the Environment,
Community and Local Government.
According to his website Pender has active relationships across the political system, including with Cabinet Ministers, senior civil servants, State agencies, representative bodies, and the print and broadcast media.