THE oil firm hoping to drill in Poole Bay has signed up a rig for the task.

Corallian Energy is still awaiting permission from the government to dig an appraisal well in the 'Colter Prospect', within 10 miles of Bournemouth beach and Studland, which is thought to contain upwards of 19 million barrels of oil.

The firm has signed a contract for the use of the jack-up drilling platform Ensco-72.

In a statement also covering a separate operation in the North Sea, the firm said: "The rig site surveys have been completed and the two well programme is expected to commence in Q4, subject to receipt of the necessary regulatory approvals and consents for both wells."

The rig is expected to be in place for some 40 days, the firm says.

Brian Larkin, CEO of United Oil & Gas which holds a 10 per cent interest in the prospect, said: "We are delighted that the rig contract has been finalised and operations at the Colter well are continuing to progress as planned.

"Colter is in an excellent location and we believe there to be significant potential in this play, which has yielded Europe's most prolific onshore field at Wytch Farm."

According to Ensco its 72 rig, built in 1981 and registered to Liberia, can drill down 25,000 feet. Its three legs are 344 feet long and it can operate at water depths of up to 225 feet.

The drilling plans have attracted opposition from local campaign groups such as Save Our Shores Bournemouth, as well as councils and MPs.