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Ban proposed for onshore oil and gas exploration in Northern Ireland

NI Economy Minister Conor Murphy

NI Economy Minister Conor Murphy

In the Assembly today Economy Minister Conor Murphy announced that he would bring forward a proposal to ban onshore oil and gas exploration and production in Northern Ireland.

Minister Murphy said:

“As climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time, one of the key objectives of my Economic Vision is to reduce carbon emissions. To meet our net zero targets, a priority will be to move away from petroleum to renewables.  I intend to ban all forms of onshore petroleum exploration and production – including fracking. This will not only help us transition from fossil fuels to renewables but also towards a greener economy and more sustainable way of life.

“The Department for the Economy currently has the power to grant licences to companies to search for and extract onshore oil and gas.  My department recently consulted on the petroleum licensing system. The consultation opened on 15th January and closed on the 12th of April. The vast majority of respondents to the consultation supported the move away from fossil fuels."

Highlighting the current bans in other jurisdictions, the Minister continued:

“The south of Ireland and Wales have recently banned all onshore petroleum activity, and Scotland has taken action on hydraulic fracturing, known as ‘fracking’. It is now time for us to act.

 “I will soon ask Executive colleagues to approve a ban and, if this is granted, I will introduce legislation to this Assembly to ban onshore petroleum licensing. This will require amendments to the Petroleum (Production) Act (Northern Ireland) 1964 and other regulations."

The Minister concluded:

“The time involved in drafting the legislation and allowing for committee scrutiny means that the legislation will be introduced in 2025. In the meantime, my department will not accept or process onshore petroleum licensing applications.”

The Department for the Economy has the power to grant licences “to explore for, bore for and get” onshore petroleum in Northern Ireland. This power was granted by the Petroleum (Production) Act (Northern Ireland) 1964 and has been supplemented by further legislation since then.

There are currently no active petroleum licences in Northern Ireland with the last active one relinquished in 2020.

The Minister’s proposal comes after a public consultation on onshore petroleum licensing which was held from 15 January – 12 April 2024.


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