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THE CONTROVERSIAL process of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, will probably start at least a year earlier in Northern Ireland than in the Republic – if it goes ahead at all, a group of TDs and Senators were told yesterday.
Chief executive of gas exploration company Tamboran Richard Moorman said he had hoped the process of drilling for gas in Leitrim and Fermanagh would go ahead together, but he expected it to start earlier in the North because the regulatory process was “much more tuned up” there.
The representatives of Tamboran attended a meeting in the Leinster House audiovisual room organised by Sligo Senator Susan O’Keeffe.
Many local TDs and Senators were also at the meeting at which Tamboran outlined plans to drill for up to 2.2 trillion cubic feet of gas in north Leitrim for 30 years, starting in 2014.
Elected representatives reacted sceptically to claims by the company that the fracking process would be safe.
Leitrim TD Michael Colreavy said: “I do not trust you guys.” He said the company’s primary concern was to make money. He said the burden of proof that the process was safe rested with the company and the go-ahead for drilling should only be given if it was proved “beyond all doubt” that it is safe.
Roscommon-South Leitrim TD Frank Feighan said companies involved in fracking in the US had had to downgrade their estimates of recoverable gas by 80 per cent and he questioned Tamboran’s claims about the amount of gas it could extract.
Independent TD Luke “Ming” Flanagan told the company that if it respected local democracy it would not drill as both Leitrim and Roscommon councils had voted against fracking.
Mr Moorman said Tamboran intended to drill up to 150 wells a year using six well pads. Production was expected to peak in 2025, where maximum employment would be 600 and the wells would produce 400 million cubic feet of gas a day, enough to supply 80 per cent of Ireland’s current needs.
He confirmed that Tamboran would float on the stock exchange in the next six months. The company also had operations in Australia and Botswana.
Mr Moorman told Ms O’Keeffe, that land had not been bought from locals in Leitrim, but the company had spoken to Coillte.
Mr Moorman conceded that most of the people qualified to ascertain whether fracking was safe were already working in the oil and gas industry because that was where the expertise lay.
He said he had already received 200 CVs and recruitment was “not going to be a problem”.
In response to a suggestion by Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte that a different tax regime might apply to onshore drilling, Mr Moorman said they would deal with that issue when it arose.
He disputed Mr Rabbitte’s contention that onshore drilling was not as risky as offshore drilling and so should therefore be subject to a different regime.