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Company behind Woodburn Forest oil drill call off project

Protests against the oil drill at Woodburn Forest. Picture by Justin Kernoghan
John Monaghan

THE company behind a controversial exploratory oil drill in Co Antrim have called off the project after no oil was found.

After years of preparation by InfraStrata, months of protests on site against their plans and the proposals being discussed in courts and councils, the firm dramatically announced on Thursday that they would abandon plans to drill for oil at Woodburn Forest near Carrickfergus.

In a statement on its website, it said that the well, which had been subject to exploratory drilling which began in May, had been drilled to a depth of 2,000 metres but that "both targets were water wet."

InfraStrata said that the well will "now be plugged and abandoned."

Andrew Hindle, chief executive of InfraStrata, said: "It is naturally disappointing not to have encountered a hydrocarbon accumulation and the joint venture will now fully evaluate the data collected in the well and decide where to focus its future exploration activity in the basin."

Mr Hindle added: "We will now work with our local contractors to professionally restore the site."

Depsite fears that the water supply in the area would be contaminated as a result of the planned drill Northern Ireland Water had insisted it had "no concerns" about the quality of the drinking water.

In a message posted online last night, the Stop the Drill campaign group, which voiced concerns about the potential impact on the water supply to thousands of homes in Belfast and Co Antrim, said it would be holding "a party to celebrate" at the weekend.

However it said that there were still questions for NI Water, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, East Antrim council and the PSNI to answer.

In March, The Irish News reported that the Department of the Environment ignored a request for its views on the project - meaning that permission was granted by default.

The resulting fall-out led the new infrastructure minister, Sinn Féin's Chris Hazzard, to propose a change in the law to require any exploration company to seek full planning permission for test drilling in future.

Five people, including Northern Ireland Friends of the Earth director James Orr, are to appear at Belfast Magistrates Court on Friday July 8th charged with causing a breach of the peace and obstructing police in connection with protests at Woodburn Forest.

Earlier this week it was reported that the overtime policing bill for the site was standing at almost £200,000.

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