Oil and gas exploration at Woodburn Forest, Ireland

In May 2016, after considerable opposition, the company InfraStrata started drilling at Woodburn Forest site in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Stop the Drill campaigners are seeking to stop it.

In May 2016, after considerable opposition, the company InfraStrata  started drilling at Woodburn Forest site in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and said it expects to complete the well within the next six weeks. Stop the Drill campaigners are seeking an injunction to stop InfraStrata from going ahead with exploratory oil drilling close to a reservoir that supplies drinking water to thousands of homes. The exploration company said will target the estimated 25 million barrels of oil within the Woodburn Forest prospect. No hydraulic fracking would be used.  Once completed, the well will be plugged and abandoned and the site restored to its former state, the company said.  In March 2016, the company had obtained permission by the county council. As reported in the press, "Emotions boiled over and verbal abuse was shouted at councillors whose vote leaves the way open for a search well to be drilled looking for oil and gas underneath the forest. Over 100 protesters from the 'Stop the Drill' campaign swamped the town hall in Ballymena to protest against the plans to look for natural resources at Woodburn Forest close to Woodburn reservoirs... As a majority of councillors from Mid and East Antrim Council agreed to give the waste management plan the go-ahead and also rejected calls for an independent survey to be carried out, police were on standby in the council chamber as protesters shouted abuse. Words like "scumbag", "shame" and "disgrace" echoed around the council chamber ...". Campaigners have set up a permanent protest site at Woodburn Forest. Their cause has been supported by Mark Ruffalo (Head of Water Defense), who acted as 'The Hulk' and one of the protesters, Chris Campbell, attended the council meeting wearing green face paint to make him look like the film character. He said: "We got support from Mark Ruffalo who acted 'The Hulk' in Hollywood so I was chosen to be 'The Hulk'. But seriously we are all quite concerned, we all live in the local area, all grew up there. We are all concerned, there is no real measurement of the waste and as we all know the waste chemicals will be stored on site. They have no clear plan of action, how they will dispose of them. They are not telling us anything, there has not been as much as a letter has come into our houses about this." Despite the start of the drill the level of opposition campaign has not regressed. On the contrary its reach has been expanded. Since April, there is a popular walk organised every Sunday at Woodburn forest.  Then in June 2016, it was reported that "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 that they would abandon plans to drill for oil at Woodburn Forest near Carrickfergus." (John Monaghan, The Irish Times, 17 June, 2016).
Basic Data
NameOil and gas exploration at Woodburn Forest, Ireland
CountryUnited Kingdom
ProvinceNorthern Ireland, County Antrim
SiteMid and East Antrim Council
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
One exploratory well being drilled in Woodburn Forest in 2016 by the company Infrastrata aimed at 25 million barrels of oil. There is opposition by local people, as described in this blog entry by http://www.greenlassie.com/tag/woodburn-forest/
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Project Area (in hectares)20
Level of Investment (in USD)not available
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population130,000
Start Date04/02/2016
End Date21/06/2016
Company Names or State EnterprisesNorthern Ireland Water (NI Water) from United Kingdom - Holds property of the site that has been leased to the company conducting the drill.
Infrastrata from United Kingdom - Company conducting the exploratory drill.
Relevant government actorsDepartment of the Environment Northern Ireland
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersStop the Drill campaign http://www.stopthedrillcampaign.com/. Facebook: Don't Drill Antrim Water.

Friends of the Earth NI https://www.foe.co.uk/northern-ireland/northern_ireland_index
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Boycotts of companies-products
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseRepression
Strengthening of participation
Project cancelled
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Firstly, the campaign facilitated the articulation of a network concerned about the potential impacts of the project. Secondly, the exploratory drilling was stopped after some joint venture partners decided to withdraw its support to further drilling due to the difficult circumstances encountered in the site.
Sources and Materials

Woodburn Forest row: Protesters ordered to leave Carrickfergus test drilling site or face court, by Nevin Farrell and Jonny Bell, 08/03/2016
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Short description of Woodburn Forest
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Stop the drill campaign website
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The Irtish Times, 17 June 2016, Johna Monaghan, Company behind Woodburn Forest oil drill call off project
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Media Links

Friends of the Earth video on Woodburn Forest
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Other Documents

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Protest camp at the forest edge April 2016. Visit at Woodburn forest on a bank holiday.
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Exploration site view
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Protest-crtical mass bike ride at Belfast city Hall 11/06/2016
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Meta Information
ContributorAlfred Burballa Noria
Last update14/07/2016