State geologist questions fracking firm's data
THE QUALITY of the data used by exploration group Tamboran Resources to determine the natural gas reserves in the Lough Allen region was “questionable”, a Government expert has claimed.
Tamboran announced in January that tests indicated that an area split between Leitrim and Fermanagh contained 4.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which it said would be enough to supply Ireland for 12 years.
Michael Hanrahan, senior geologist with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources petroleum division, told an Oireachtas committee yesterday that the quality of that information could be questioned. “The seismic data is very old and its quality is questionable,” he said, and would need more evaluation.
Seismic data allows geologists to assess whether a rock formation could hold oil or gas. Tamboran intends using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract the gas. This involves using water and sand to crack the rock to allow the gas to escape.
The company declined to attend yesterday’s hearing before the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications. Tamboran said that, in line with the licensing process, “we will be presenting the department with a comprehensive geotechnical and seismic analysis of the project area”.
The company holds a licence option for the region, which does not entitle it carry out any drilling. Its estimate of the Lough Allen resource is based on analyses of existing samples and information by two specialists, Core Laboratories and Global Geophysical.
Ciarán Ó hÓbáin, principal officer with the department’s petroleum affairs division, confirmed to the committee that Tamboran would have to apply for an exploration licence by the end of February or its option would lapse.
That application will have to include an environmental impact statement. Mr Ó hÓbáin said that the statement would have to take into account the findings of a comprehensive review of fracking by the Environmental Protection Agency. On that basis, Mr Ó hÓbáin said it would be well into next year before the evaluation of any exploration licence applications for the region could begin.
Exploration licences also require planning permission, safety permits from the Commission for Energy Regulation and public consultation.
Dr Aedín McLoughlin, of the Good Energies Alliance, argued that if fracking were permitted, it could contaminate drinking water supplies in the area and as far away as Donegal. Underground aquifers are used to supply much of the water in the region. These can be found both above and below the rock that Tamboran intends fracturing.
Dr McLoughlin claimed that fracking would only create 180 long-term jobs and about 400 in the short-term. She said that the experience in the US, where fracking is widespread, has been that it relies on migrant labour. She told the committee that this had resulted in social problems such as an increase in crime, alcohol and drug problems and prostitution.