InfraStrata, the Irish independent explorer, said the massive potential for its Woodburn Forest play can deliver Ireland its largest onshore oilfield.
The conventional play, near Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland, could deliver 25 million barrels of oil.
However, the project has been dogged by protesters worried over the environmental impact of the oil production in rural Ulster.
Last week, the company withdrew an injunction against protesters opposed to the Woodburn Forest test drill.
InfraStrata chief executive Andrew Hindle said Woodburn Forest was high-risk high reward venture for company.
“Woodburn has significant upside potential in the basin.”
“It could open up a massive exploration play and become one of the largest onshore project in the British Isles.”
Drilling is expected to commence in May, with a 2,000 metre well fully funded and permitted.
“We know a lot about the geology of the site and have carried out successful seismic imaging under the basalt. It could be very successful for the company and its partners. It would also have a very positive impact on the economy of Northern Ireland,” said Hindle.
The seismic reports led to the identification of numerous previously unidentified onshore prospects with an estimated 25 million barrels of oil in the sandstones within the Woodburn Forest prospect.
Work began on the wellsite earlier this month, however protest group Stop the Drill oppose the development over concerns of contamination of drinking water supplies for over 130,000 people in the catchment area.
Northern Ireland Water, which leased the site to InfraStrata, has given the project the all clear.
Groundwater will also be protected by measures including the drill shaft being encased in steel and concrete, according to Infrastrata.
Infrastrata’s other major project – the Islandmagee gas storage plant – has had an easier ride and has received funding from the European Community.
Commercial development director, Anita Gardiner said: “The project has had broad support across Northern Ireland. We have spent a lot of time working with the local community. There have been concerns were around noise and traffic during the development stage. We have consulted with local stakeholder groups, including fishermen and commercial fishermen.
“When we drilled the borehole last year, we had no issues at all.”
Gardiner said that Infrastrata had spent £4million in the drilling process – with £1million going into the local economy. Construction of the well pad site was done by a local firm and ancillary services were also carried out by local contractors. Gardiner said around 400 jobs would be created during the construction of the facility and would employ around 40 highly skilled technicians once complete.
Islandmagee will be the only gas storage project being developed in Ireland. Gas storage is required in Ireland to counter the intermittent nature of renewable generation, particularly wind turbines.
Gardiner added: “Islandmagee will have access to the three markets – Northern Ireland, the Republic and the UK via a two way pipeline.”