Shale gas drilling to begin in Ireland

The development of techniques which allow the extraction of gas from some carboniferous rocks known as shale has completely transformed the world’s natural gas market. The gas price has fallen and in one case in the US, a terminal that was built to import gas is now being used to export it.

All over the world, energy companies are rushing to secure licences to prospect for suitable shale which, if successful, will enable them to profit from this new energy source. The rush has reached Ireland and in February, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources gave Enegi Oil an option over 495-square kilometres in the Clare Basin. an area which covers all of Clare and part of Kerry and Limerick.

The company believes there is shale gas similar to that found in Newfoundland as both areas were joined together hundreds of millions of years ago. Chief executive Alan Minty said they were investing up to €650,000 in the initial exploration. He said they would apply for exploration licences should the work programme identify prospective targets.

If the exploration is successful, serious issues will emerge. Brian Davey analyses these in a major article here, which also gives sources of further information. Our second article was published by a US firm of investment advisers, ,on April 18th. It does not shy away from mentioning the environmental problems but dodges any ethical issues by saying “it is not important to decide whether or not fracking is damaging to people and the environment. The Senate committee and the EPA are working on that (albeit through numerous politicians and lobbyists – good luck to them). What the investor needs to do is the same as always: separate the wheat from the chaff. “ In other words invest in the best companies. It’s well worth reading and can be found here (scroll down the page a little to find it).


More on fracking

Note: Feasta is a forum for exchanging ideas. By posting on its site Feasta agrees that the ideas expressed by authors are worthy of consideration. However, there is no one ‘Feasta line’. The views of the article do not necessarily represent the views of all Feasta members. 

3 Replies to “Shale gas drilling to begin in Ireland”

  1. From:

    Dennis Lum, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Durango, Colorado.

    After reading Richard Douthwaite’s article, “Shale Oil Drilling to Begin in Ireland (April 21, 2011), I felt compelled to post the letter which follows which I had recently written for our two local newspapers about the “fluids” used in natural gas exploration in Colorado which are carcinogenic and neurotoxic. Colorado, according to a recent 30-page Congressional House and Energy Commerce Report, ranked second in the United States for total number of gallons of fluid used in oil and gas extraction between 2005-2009. Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” uses dangerous chemicals to break up the underground shale in order to extract gas from deep deposits and threatens watersheds and underground aquifers with chemical contamination. The Mercy Hospital I mention is local.

    “Won’t Get fooled Again” (Song by The Who (1971))

    Last summer, a Mercy Hospital nurse fell seriously ill after treating an oil/gas worker who was “soaked in unknown chemicals.” She was suffering from liver, heart and lung failure in Mercy’s intensive care unit. So-called privacy rules prevented the naming of the oil and gas worker’s employer and shielded the energy company from having to provide any information about the chemicals used in the fields.

    On Tuesday, May 26, an article entitled, “Is the Water Supply for 8 Million People in New York City at Risk,” appeared on “Truthdig”, a web magazine. It was written by the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Chris Hedges. In the article, Hedges talked about the chemical pollution and safety hazards involved with natural gas production: “three to five million gallons of water per well mixed with resin-coated sand and cocktail of hazardous chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, nitrogen, biocides, surfactants, friction reducers and benzene, are used to facilitate the fracturing of the shale to extract gas.” Over half of the toxic water used in gas production is left underground threatening drinking water while some 35-45% is stored above ground in evaporation pits which have the potential to become superfund sites.

    TEDX at, based in Paonia, Colorado, tracks human health and environmental threats posed by endocrine disruptors, notes that “each stage of [natural gas] production and delivery, tons of toxic volatile compounds, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, etc., and fugitive natural gas (methane), escape and mix with nitrogen oxides from exhaust of diesel-driven, mobile and stationary equipment to produce ground-level ozone (air pollution).” Sadly, State, local, and federal regulations are at best a band-aid of thinly disguised rules and regulations which hold energy producers to little account.

    The nurse who treated the oil and gas worker is back at work. Oil and gas tax revenues play a substantial role in funding local and state governments. Julian Darley in his book, High Noon for Natural Gas, notes that natural gas production has already peaked in North America. Gas production in La Plata County has also peaked. Frantic downspacing and natural gas fracturing is a desperate attempt to maintain “higher” levels of gas production in light of the dwindling levels of natural gas. The trade-off seems plausible: local jobs and tax revenues v. ill-health and budget deficit In a corporate dominated market economy where money is the principle value, public safety will always be a second-class citizen and the public good will be the stuff of dreams.

  2. Ireland has some of the most expensive electricity in the world, even marginally higher than Britain’s.

    The main drivers of economic growth are Economic Freedom + Cheap Energy.

    Ireland managed the former well and has had 2 decades of economic growth. Shale gas allows them to meet both requirements.

Comments are closed.