Algarve mayors reiterate united opposition to oil exploration

Tuesday January 12 was a very black day indeed for the Algarve oil lobby. Fuel entity ENMC came to Faro to demystify what it called “some of the wrong ideas about the Algarve’s oil and gas exploration plans”, but what transpired fooled no-one.

Mayors and throngs of banner waving supporters left as unanimous as they arrived: the Algarve is not the place for oil exploration, extraction or production. The region wants nothing to do with plans ratified behind closed doors by the last government, and will do everything it can to ensure agreements already signed with oil companies are torn up.

Following the explosive meeting that saw anti-oil groups jeering and scoffing at what one described as “an hour-and-a-half of bull*** presentations” by oil companies Repsol, Partex, Eni, Galp and Portfuel, Jorge Botelho the leader of AMAL – the association of the Algarve’s 16 borough councils – told national television why his organisation is demanding “the immediate halt of all fuel and natural gas prospection in the Algarve”.

“At the very least we would want an environmental impact evaluation on how all these measures would affect the regional economy which is strongly based on tourism, which is a rich source of income both for the region and the national GDP” , he told RTP television.

But as the news service explained at the end of its clip, “as things stand right now, exploration for natural gas” – which campaigners say is every bit as harmful for the environment as exploration for oil – “could go ahead at any moment”.

To this end, ASMAA – one of the most vociferous groups in the anti-oil fight – is preparing a door-to-door campaign to assist Algarve mayors in their bid to get oil and gas plans thrown out altogether.

The worry, explained ASMAA CEO Laurinda Seabra, is that mayors could eventually agree to the ENMC’s dropping onshore prospection contracts in return for turning a blind eye to offshore drilling – and that oil industry lobbying could eventually persuade people to change their minds.

“We have to keep fighting”, she said after the meeting. “This was a very black day for the Algarve oil lobby, but it doesn’t mean they will give up. They still have all those contracts which give them a total green light to go ahead with their plans”.

ASMAA presented the pro-oil panel of companies with a list of 50 questions during the meeting – much to the applause of the hundreds of people in the audience.

For the full list, which ASMAA hopes will be answered by Friday January 22, see below:


List of Questions for 12 Jan 2016 – ENMC

1. ASMAA has 55 questions needing answers currently, but this meeting only allows for +-1 hour to address questions from the public in this meeting. In our opinion that is not sufficient time, and these questions need answers. As a result we would like to hand our list of questions to all the panellists and we will be happy to receive written replies. How long do each one of you need to reply in writing to our various questions? It should not take weeks – can we expect an answer by next week’s Friday? The 22 January 2016?

2. One question that needs answers is why the government accepted such poor Royalties (for example 10c a barrel for the Lagostim concession and 25c a barrel for Lagosta? And what are the real benefits for the people of the Algarve? What will Portugal benefit from these contracts? Especially if one takes into account the fact that all costs incurred from day one are deductible before any payments are due to Portugal? Why was there no list of allowable costs included in these contracts – in our opinion it is a risk that Portugal did not have to incur as in our opinion it opens room for such things as inflated inter-company transactions – after all for example Repsol has over 300 companies under its umbrella –there’s nothing legally stopping it from charging management, technical or other services fees by any of its foreign companies to the Portuguese licence-holder and for the Portuguese licence-holder to show losses year on year.

3. Why does only the concession contracts with Repsol/Partex and Australis have a specific clause of financial indemnity? Which is in our opinion extremely prejudicial to Portugal? Keeping in mind such fact, as that the Australis contract was signed on 30 September 2015.

4. One area of serious concern is the fact that no EIA’s are mandatory during exploration phase. Why hasn’t the ENMC motivated a change to the Portuguese legal system for petroleum activities yet so as to include such requirement prior to any exploration taking place?

5. Why the lack of consultation with local population and local municipal representatives prior to allocation of concession licences? Why has the local population been kept in the dark about concrete issues until they were a fact-accompli?

6. Why is there a policy and procedure document for onshore exploration but not for offshore?

7. Can you tell us in plain language what is your definition of “Conventional” drilling technologies, and what do you consider to be “Unconventional”? What is your definition of “Horizontal Drilling”, “Hydraulic Fracturing” and “Well Stimulation”? Why is there a lack of definitions in the concession contracts?

8. ENMC has stated on various occasions in the media as well as during the AMAL meeting of 16 December that ONLY conventional drilling had been authorised – can you tell us where will we find such confirmation in writing? And can we get copies thereof?

9. Onshore contracts for Portfuel (Tavira and Aljezur) mention hydraulic fracturing and other unconventional processes – in addition there’s direct reference to it in the ENMC document of July 2015 named “Operacoes de Pesquisa de Petroleo em Terra (Onshore) is ENMC trying to cloud the issue of fracking and the use of other non-conventional methods?

10. We find it interesting that only now, that new drilling techniques like fracking and acidizing are in full swing in the US, Canada, etc, that the oil and gas companies think that the Algarve’s long-known-of natural gas deposits warrant attention. Should we then, really believe that they went through all this effort and expense not to frack in the future? Can we expect that any wells drilled with conventional methods and showing disappointing production will simply be abandoned, or will the companies do whatever it takes to maximize fossil fuel output recovery and to maximise their return on investments incurred?

11. From an ethical perspective we should look at the harms and benefits of hydraulic fracturing and other unconventional processes. In other words, do the potential dangers of fracking and other unconventional processes, including contamination of water supplies, outweigh the potential benefits of producing badly needed oil and gas resources at a time when our national security may be in jeopardy because of our continued reliance on unreliable sources of energy? Is Portugal energy independence more important than the potential for harm to those affected by fracking procedures? Does the alleged job creation and economic growth trump health and safety concerns?

12. What is the intended timeframe for all aspects of the exploration cycles both onshore and offshore? (Including meeting any specific new or enhanced infrastructure requirements)

13. Why has a full public consultation of all aspects of shale gas fracking and other non-conventional methods not been undertaken until today? What motivated the ENMC to organise today’s event?

14. How will ENMC ensure that groundwater is not contaminated during shale gas fracking or other non-conventional technologies?

15. How will the risk of shale gas fracking fluids migrating into ground water be mitigated and how will the risk of groundwater contamination by methane and other gases be mitigated?

16. How will the ENMC ensure that ‘fractures’ caused by hydraulic fracturing or other non-conventional drilling processes for shale gas, will not extend into aquifers and cause contamination of ground water?

17. How will the ENMC regulate the amount of water made available for Hydraulic Fracturing or other non-conventional drilling technologies?

18. How will ENMC ensure that there is sufficient drinking water for the general public, in the face of drought and the already large demands on water use in the Algarve?

19. How does the ENMC ensure that chemicals from shale gas fracking or other non-conventional processes, both fracking fluid and flow-back fluids, will not escape into the environment?

20. How will operators dispose of shale gas fracking fluids from flow-back?

21. How will radioactive elements from flow back fluids and other chemical contaminated waste be disposed of?

22. How will well casing integrity and quality be assured? How are well casings tested and how often?

23. Apart from ENMC, what independent monitoring arrangements are in place? How are radioactive sources, such as well tools, stored and managed on site? … and do such sources pose a risk to public health?

24. What are the plans to mitigate the risk of earthquakes caused by shale gas fracking, and who is going to monitor the implementation of these plans?

25. There are some recommendations for onshore exploration drilling and testing, but what will happen if these tests prove that a shale gas development would be commercially viable, with many wells and shale gas fracking or through other unconventional methods over a period of years? Will new guidelines, procedures or policies be drafted and passed into law?

26. How are the technical experts for such things as induced Seismicity selected by ENMC?

27. How will the Government ensure that seismic events caused by shale gas fracking will not impact existing critical infrastructure?

28. If it was determined that shale operations had caused an earthquake, what would the position of ENMC, government and oil and gas companies in relation to liabilities be? Taking into account that insurance companies worldwide are putting restrictions on claims resulting from fracking operations.

29. How will gas escaping into the air from both the well and shale gas fracking fluids be avoided/monitored?

30. How will air pollution due to site operations be monitored locally and who is responsible for its monitoring?

31. How will ENMC ensure that leaks of methane from the well heads will not be a major contributing factor in increasing GHG and impacting negatively on climate change?

32. Who funds the enforcement of the regulatory framework for shale gas exploration and prospection?

33. What are the arrangements for a new round of concession licences? Has the new rounds been advertised? Where?

34. What are the adjudication criteria used by ENMC for awarding concession licences?

35. Why is Portugal exploring shale gas when we should be investing in low carbon energy?

36. Who will monitor increased traffic movements, and who will be financing road maintenance requirements for example, or new roads, railways, pipelines?

37. Why would Portugal exploit shale gas when any fossil fuels exploration is clearly not aligned to reducing the impact on global warming?

38. Does ENMC really believe that investment in shale gas must be at the expense of investment in low carbon technologies such as green technologies or alternative energy sources?

39. How does ENMC decide on specific local issues such as: visual impact, traffic movements, natural environment, noise increases, etc when shale gas fracking or other unconventional methods is proposed?

40. How will the public be engaged? And when?

41. What has ENMC set as the minimum distance that shale gas fracking or any other unconventional technologies can take place, what is the closest proximity to populated areas?

42. Who is responsible for monitoring and managing any long-term aspects of shale gas fracking. e.g. when shale gas extraction has ceased? And well is decommissioned? Or abandoned?

43. How will ENMC ensure that communities do not suffer ‘property blight’, or higher insurance rates, as a result of hydraulic fracturing activities and what mechanisms exist for compensating people who suffer property damage due to seismic events caused by Hydraulic Fracturing or any other fossil fuel drilling or commercialisation activity?

44. Who will monitor the impacts of shale gas fracking activity on agriculture? If agricultural activity is impacted by fracking activity, who will compensate the landowners?

45. What if fracking has come up on the conveyance searches completed when buying a house? Or if I own a property but I don’t want to allow fracking in my property, what are the risk of expropriation of my property by the government?

46. Finally is ENMC willing to sign an agreement with the people of Portugal guaranteeing that no unconventional drilling, including hydraulic fracturing will ever take place in Portugal?

Specific Questions to Oil and Gas Companies
47. Will your oil company (Repsol/Partex/Galp/ENI/ Portfuel) accept full liability in the case of environmental damage caused by your activities including: a. Full environmental clean-up beyond what appears initially to be the problem (offshore for example – on the surface of the sea, onshore – land contamination, etc.). b. Economic loss to affected communities. c. Health impacts of your activities on local population, farming animals, domestic animals, birds, fishing, etc.?

48. How many kilometres and how many months would it take to get Jack-up rigs to drill relief wells in case of a blowout? Is (Repsol/Partex, Galp/ENI intention to have jack up rigs in Portuguese waters? If not, please explain the time frame in which the companies believes such rigs could be in place in the event of a blowout. Would Repsol/Partex, Galp/ENI object to a requirement that would have at least 2 jack up rigs in close proximity to a drilling activity?

49. What would Repsol/Partex, Galp/ENI do to assist in mitigating the current under capacity of Portuguese Maritime clean up and response capabilities? Does Repsol/Partex, Galp/ENI believe they are prepared for a serious spill?

50. Considering that dispersants like Corexit may be more toxic than the spilled oil itself and only serve to hide the oil from the surface of the sea, spreading it throughout the food chain, what are Repsol/Partex, Galp/ENI views on its application in the case of a spill?

51. Will Repsol/Partex, Galp/ENI and the ENMC be willing to come back to discuss these issues with a larger group from our community, in greater depth than can be done in a couple hours and at a time when most people are not at work?

52. How many local jobs will each company be creating in the Algarve? And what skill level will these jobs be?

53. What are your Corporate Responsibility Projects planned for the Algarve and which Community Empowerment programs do you plan on developing? What percentage of your annual budget will you allocate to these local CSR initiatives?

54. What SME development programs as part of your supply chain will you be embarking on and when will such development take place?

55. Are you prepared to sign a contract with local communities whereby you undertake full responsibility and to pay for any damages that your operations causes to the community, to the environment, to individual residents, to their businesses or to their properties?

56. What drilling technologies will your companies be using during all the drilling activities for the duration of the contracts?