On 11 July 2017, approval to drill an exploratory well within Block 53/6-A in the southern Porcupine Basin off the south west coast of Ireland was granted to Providence Resources Plc.
Prior to granting approval, the application to drill was considered against a range of technical, environmental, and financial requirements. In addition, the company had to obtain a safety permit from the Commission for Regulation of Utilities and approval by the Irish Coast Guard for the company’s Oil Spill Contingency Plan and Well Emergency Response Plan.
In respect of environmental requirements, the company was required to submit an Environmental Risk Assessment (EIA Screening) and a Natura Impact Screening (Appropriate Assessment) Statement in support of its application to commence drilling activities and these were considered in the context of the likely effects on the environment of the proposed drilling. A review was undertaken for my Department by Bec Consultants, an independent consultancy appointed for their expertise in ecological and conservation marine biology to, inter alia:- examine the submitted Environmental Statement and assess whether or not it met the scope and quality of requirements set out or implied by the specific European and Irish Environmental Impact Assessment legislation and guidelines;- appraise the Environmental Statement, highlighting any deficiencies in respect of the statutory requirements of the Statement and detailing the outcome and resolution of any such deficiencies; and- ensure that the requirements of the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations, 2011, for an assessment to be carried out on any plan or project likely to have a significant effect on a protected site or species were met by the Appropriate Assessment Screening Report.
In addition, the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht,was requested to provide its observations in terms of Natura 2000 sites, where relevant, and Annex IV species (Cetaceans) in accordance with the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).
The application did not propose the storage of fossil fuels at the site of the exploratory well, nor the development of any hydrocarbons found, and as such the Environmental Risk Assessment and Natura Impact Screening Statement did not consider the potential impact of same on the environment.
Documentation associated with the grant of approval to drill has been posted on my Department's website.