I would like to make something clear to those people who are against oil and gas exploration off the Algarve coast, and what it could mean to the economy.
I have worked in the industry for 35 years, 20 of which were in the North Sea and the last 15 years international. I have worked on every type of rig from Alaska to Japan, from Northern Russia through the Middle East and down to West Africa, across to Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico and have seen the financial impact on those countries’ economies.
Aberdeen was just a fishing port before oil and gas was discovered off the Scottish coast and turned virtually overnight into the oil capital of Europe. Make no mistake; Portugal is on its knees economically so if oil and gas is discovered in viable amounts for production it would be a godsend.
It doesn’t just mean jobs offshore; more people are employed onshore just to service the industry. This would mean the big name service companies opening engineering workshops and head offices employing hundreds of people from graduate engineers to welders, welding inspectors, fabricators, electricians, pipe fitters, shot blasters and painters also creating career opportunities for the youth of Portugal, not to mention the need for all the office staff.
Also, drilling companies need large warehouses to store all their drilling equipment and pipe yards to keep their casing and drill pipe; all this needs people to look after it, including security guards.
Also I might add: offshore workers travel by helicopters meaning a heliport and people to service it. Then there is the hotel and catering industry, all there to support the offshore workforce, the implications and importance of this are boundless. Most people in the Algarve work in the tourist industry only earning a living seasonally. Oil and gas is 24/7, 365 days a year – think what that could mean to their financial situations.
Finally, safety: yes, there have been some disasters in the past but mostly human error and could have been avoided. In any energy industry, there are risks but the best engineers in the world assess those risks and decide the best courses of action.
In 35 years, I never witnessed a single disaster. Super tankers have been passing along the Algarve coast for decades but no one mentions anything about the potential dangers of an oil spill.
So, people of the Algarve Surf and Marine Association, with all due respect, maybe you should think again the next time you drive to the coast in those big gas guzzling camper vans to go surfing.
Ian Sheppard – Offshore Environmental Services Engineer