A petroleum licence application, that could eventually lead to fracking in Fermanagh and which covers almost half the county, has been received and deemed valid by the Department of the Economy.

The application, which was received from Tamboran Resources (UK) Limited covers all or part of: Belcoo, Garrison, Belleek, Boa, Boho, Cleenish, Letterbreen, Derrygonnelly, Derrylin, Florence Court and Kinawley.

The licence application covers an area of 608 square kilometres and if granted will see up to five years of work carried out.

The application, if granted, would pave the way for a borehole to be drilled in order to test the shale under ground for natural gas content.

Tamboran had a similar petroleum licence granted previously but before they were due to drill a borehole at Cleggan quarry in Bellcoo in August of 2014 the then Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, blocked the drilling saying it was “not possible to assess the environmental impact of the drilling”.

At the time there was significant local opposition to any prospect of fracking.

The company in their most recent application stated that they were “confident that rational, reasonable people looking at the facts and the opportunities will conclude that, based on the evidence of safe working operations around the world, that natural shale gas exploration in County Fermanagh should proceed”.

In that same application Tamboran also stated that while no sites for drilling had been finalised they did say that the company had “been approached by a significant number of landowners in the licence area who were interested in working with the company”.

In a statement released this week Tamboran said:

“This is simply the start of a discussion. If the Department decides to award the licence, all operations will be subject to strict regulatory and planning scrutiny. If the project proceeds, we estimate that the natural gas that could be extracted from County Fermanagh could be worth in excess of £20 billion and provide Northern Ireland with a secure, cleaner and lower-carbon supply of natural gas for potentially upwards of fifty years.”

A two-month consultation will now take place before a final decision is made as to whether to grant the licence.

If the licence is granted the proposed works programme will take place in two phases. Phase two of the proposed project, if Tamboran were to proceed, would involve, subject to planning approval, the drilling of exploration wells and the carrying out of hydraulic fracking.

The news of the petroleum licence application has sparked a reaction from local politicians.

Sinn Fein MLA, Jemma Dolan, has said that her party remains opposed to fracking

“This latest application for fracking is in large areas to the west of Lough Erne and to the south of lower Lough Erne and it should be opposed. These areas are renowned for their beauty and its environment and it should not be put at risk by fracking. We remain opposed to fracking and will oppose any and all applications to carry out fracking wherever they are.”

DUP leader and local MLA, Arlene Foster, said that the environment must come first when consideration is being made:

“The Strategic Planning Policy Statement agreed by the Executive in 2015 included a presumption against fracking and other unconventional hydrocarbon extraction unless there is sufficient and robust evidence on all environmental impacts.” she said before adding:

“There have been concerns raised around potential impact from extraction on local drinking water supplies as well as the impact on the landscape of Fermanagh. Given the huge importance of tourism to the economy of County Fermanagh these are obviously very important considerations.”

UUP MLA, Rosemary Barton, is of the opinion that more clarification is needed on the issue:

“Although this has been with us for some time I am concerned that there has been absolutely no clarification on a number of vitally important points,” she said while also arguing that there had been “no indication of any direct benefits to Fermanagh where the majority of the potential risks are in this process.”

Newly elected SDLP councillor, Adam Gannon, said his party was also opposed:

“When fracking was previously proposed in Fermanagh it was overwhelmingly rejected by the community and the community remain resolutely opposed.”