Major oil discovery off NI coast
Environmentalists have reacted angrily to a potential major oil discovery off the coast of Northern Ireland.
A Dublin exploration company believes more than half a billion barrels may be under the sea near the North Antrim shore and wants to tap into its potential.
But Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland director James Orr said: "We would be supportive of anyone in that community who would be opposed to this retrograde step."
Providence Resources said around 200 million barrels of oil could be recovered close to Rathlin Island, producing 20 billion US dollars (£13 billion) in revenue. The area explored covers around 30 square kilometres.
A company spokesman said: "All of the elements of a working petroleum system in this frontier basin, such as source, reservoir and seal, have been proven in adjacent nearby onshore wells."
He added: "Given its near-shore location, it is possible that the Polaris Prospect could be drilled from an onshore Northern Ireland location, with high-level potential surface well locations currently being evaluated."
The company is leading a major drilling programme on a number of exploration/development wells off the shore of Ireland. The 500 million US dollars (£317 million) investigation is taking place across six different areas.
Mr Orr said Northern Ireland should use the sea near Rathlin to become a major producer of tidal energy rather than relying on fossil fuels.
"It is an area with some of the best tidal energy resources and some of the best wind energy resources, not just in Ireland but in Europe," he said.
"We should be exploiting those for clean and green energy. The exploitation of the remaining oil and gas resources around Ireland is very counter-productive."