A local environmental group says the only way to slow climate change is to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

Isle of Man Friends of the Earth feels the government should not go ahead with the extraction of gas from the Manx seabed.

This comes after this came a step closer with the appointment of a contract operator for company Crogga’s appraisal well.

Crogga has also announced it will be offering up a chance for locals to invest in the company.

If everything goes as it plans, the company wants to drill its first well in the autumn, with a view to the gas coming online by the end of 2026.

Crogga said it has appointed THREE60 Energy to drill the Crogga Independence appraisal well (112/25a-2) on the Crogga Gas Field, which it said has ‘significant drilling experience in the East Irish Sea with an excellent safety record’.

A spokesperson said: ‘Crogga Limited has completed its pre-drill evaluation of the Crogga gas field and the well will spud (start) as soon as permitting is complete. The objective is to establish commercial flow rates from the conventional Permian Collyhurst Sandstone reservoir.

‘In the success case, Crogga could become one of the largest field developments in the East Irish Sea, comparable in size to the Douglas and Hamilton Fields in the Liverpool Bay Development.

‘If commercial production rates are established and the field is as large as expected, Crogga gas will provide energy independence and a significant increase in GDP for the Isle of Man.

‘Revenues will be generated at no cost or financial risk to Isle of Man taxpayers. Crogga will cap gas prices at 80p/Therm for Manx domestic gas sales and local natural gas production has a smaller carbon footprint than imported gas.

‘It is the fuel of choice to enable the Island to transition to a zero-carbon economy.’

The carbon claims of Crogga has been criticised by politicians and pressure groups on the island who are opposed to the removal of fossil fuels from Manx seas.

The size of the field which Crogga wants to drill into.

A recent peer-reviewed study, published in the scientific journal Nature, found that nearly 60% of oil and fossil methane gas must stay underground to have even a 50% chance of keeping global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees celsius.

Pete Christian of Isle of Man Friends of the Earth, a local group that campaigns for a cleaner, greener island, said: ‘That’s not a gamble we should be toying with.

‘Crogga’s claim that drilling for new gas fits with the Isle of Man’s net zero by 2050, because they would cease drilling by 2048, is absurd.

‘Climate change has no reverse gear, we cannot keep pumping out greenhouse gases for the next 25 years and ignore the damage done.

‘Our government should instead be doing everything in their power to harness our enormous potential for off shore wind.’

He said this dash for gas is ‘completely at odds’ with the government’s Climate Change Plan 2022-27.

‘A second interconnector cable is to be constructed so that by 2030 any electricity we import must be “carbon neutral”,’ Mr Christian added.

‘Electricity from burning gas generates greenhouse gases, having the opposite effect to what we must try to achieve.

‘Exploiting a new fossil fuel deposit just four years before this benchmark date makes a mockery of joined-up government climate and energy policy.

‘Crogga must at the very least release the vital Environmental Impact Assessments which currently appear to be absent.’

Mr Christian further detailed the effects drilling could have, saying: ‘Drilling has severe effects on our precious marine wildlife as well as inevitably leaking gas at the well head, adding to ocean acidification and atmospheric release of methane.

‘Any gas extracted will not come direct to Manx boilers and hobs, it will have to be processed elsewhere by dehydration and purification. It will then enter the wholesale gas market, which sets prices.

‘Crogga has repeated its promise to provide gas at 80p per therm – it is difficult to see how this promise could ever be kept.

‘Wholesale gas prices have just about returned to pre-Ukraine war levels, currently at around 170p.

‘Anders Opedal, the chief executive of Norway’s state oil company Equinor, recently said bills across Europe are likely to remain elevated.

‘Are the energy purchasing public in the island really being told the whole picture?’

Chair of the climate change transformation board Daphne Caine said: ‘Extraction of fossil fuel-based natural gas goes against the aims of the island’s Climate Change Plan and Tynwald has voted not to support any future exploitation within Manx waters.

‘Meanwhile in respect of Crogga, I look forward to receiving an update from them at a members’ briefing later this week.

‘I am particularly keen to understand how they have completed the licence requirement for the Environmental Impact Assessment and as a board we are still awaiting details of how Crogga will mitigate against any increase in local emissions.’

Crogga has also announced it’s opening up a share offering to islanders, as it bids to raise £32.5 million to cover well costs.

While most of the investment it is seeking is from companies, Crogga said it ‘has always been mindful that, at the right moment, it wishes to provide local investors with the opportunity to participate’.

Subscriptions will be accepted on a first come, first served basis.

THREE60 Energy has converted part of its payment for operating the Independence well into shares in Crogga Limited.

You can find out more about the offering memorandum, as well as the risks of investing, by going to https://www.crogga.im

Chief executive Richard Hubbard said: ‘A corporate update will follow when the IWR closes on February 24 and a drilling rig contracted.

If the 2023 Crogga Independence well is successful, 3D seismic and further drilling will rapidly follow to develop the Crogga field with first production of natural gas as early as 2026.’