InfraStrata launches new survey to probe ‘encouraging’ gas and oil leads

The seismic survey vehicles that will be used to collect data for InfraStrata in June. INLT 22-604-CON

The seismic survey vehicles that will be used to collect data for InfraStrata in June. INLT 22-604-CON

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GAS storage and petroleum exploration company InfraStrata plc is to undertake a second seismic study across parts of Larne, Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus during June.

The “low-impact” survey, which will comprise acquisition of electronic data along 105 kilometres over a period of approximately three weeks, will add to information attained during a similar study last autumn. The survey is part of InfraStrata’s bid to discover economically viable oil and gas deposits deep under the Lough Neagh Basin, which stretches from Larne Lough as far as Antrim.

The study will be undertaken for InfraStrata by specialist firm Tesla Exploration International Ltd, under the terms of Petroleum Licence PL1/10 which was awarded to InfraStrata by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in March, 2011. The initial licence term is five years, with a decision on drilling a well required within three years.

Dr Andrew Hindle, chief executive officer of InfraStrata, said: “This infill seismic study represents a further opportunity to acquire unique information about the deep underground geology across Co Antrim.”

Dr Hindle explained how the survey will be carried out: “This specialist low-impact geophysical survey will involve the use of slow-moving Vibroseis trucks to send low-frequency sound waves into the earth. The signals will be recorded, analysed and added to the unique data previously collected to produce more comprehensive images of the underlying geological layers.”

He added: “Before commencing the survey, Tesla – on behalf of InfraStrata – will carry out letter drops to residents and businesses in the vicinity of the survey area and will meet with landowners affected by the survey route to seek their permission to enter private lands and to advise them of the planned data collection process. As before, there will be liaison with the Roads Service to keep any traffic disruption to a minimum.”

InfraStrata and its PL1/10 partners are said to have been “very encouraged” by the identification of “several large leads” arising from the data collated in 2011. The latest seismic search is an attempt to refine the structural interpretation of those leads and to identify a suitable location for drilling the first exploration well.

In March, Dr Hindle said: “Although it was anticipated that we would confirm a thick sedimentary sequence within the Larne-Lough Neagh Basin, the challenge before the 2011 survey was to design a programme to successfully image below the Tertiary basalt, which is at the surface over the majority of the licence area. We have managed to achieve this and confirm that the structural style is similar to our analogue, the East Irish Sea Basin.”

The sedimentary section is over 4,000 metres thick in the most deeply buried parts of the basin.

InfraStrata says on its website that the petroleum exploration is conventional (ie not unconventional shale gas “fracking”).

Meanwhile, InfraStrata’s other major local project, the proposed storage of natural gas in excavated salt caverns under Larne Lough, is the subject of a consultation initiated by the Northern Ireland Utility Regulator, which is seeking industry views on its minded position that third party access requirements – aimed at ensuring market flexibility – should not apply.

The regulator appears to have accepted the argument of Islandmagee Storage Limited that the desired flexibility in the UK market is provided from a number of sources, including pipeline imports and storage facilities. Further details at http://www.uregni.gov.uk/uploads/publications/Third_party_access_IMSL_consultation_paper_18512.pdf