News this morning is that the GALP/ ENI bid to extend its drilling permission off the coast of Aljezur has been refused.
Say reports, the government has vetoed the oil companies’ request to “prolong the contract signed to advance with hydrocarbon prospection in the sea in 2018” for the Lavagante and Santola concessions, starting 46kms off the coast of Aljezur.
“The likelihood of a well being sunk are now practically nil”, concludes tabloid Correio da Manhã in a half-page spread suggesting the decision now lies with “the municipalities in the region” – all of which have declared themselves vehemently anti- any kind of drilling, whether on land or at sea.
CM infers that this is an end to the Aljezur “oil threat” – opposed by tens of thousands in the Algarve and Alentejo – particularly because “on August 18 a law was approved that obliges previous consultation with borough councils before any kind of hydrocarbon research and drilling can be approved”.
But activists warn that the situation is nothing like as simple as newspapers are suggesting.
First and foremost, the concessions off Aljezur have not been cancelled.
Today’s ‘news’ is simply about one specific contract relating to a massive concession that extends over 9,100 sq kms.
In other words, GALP/ ENI may not end up drilling – but another company might.
Secondly, the law allowing for municipal feedback on drilling bids does not give muncipalities the power of veto. That remains with the government.
As leading campaigner Laurinda Seabra commented: “ I am not buying this.
“After civic organisations questioned surveys underway in the concession areas (click here), on the same day (27 Sep) in an unprecedented move and late at night, the ENMC came out with a press release negating any authorisation had been given for such surveys – and that the likelihood of sinking a well offshore is ‘practically nil’. Today in CM, we see the same arguments being presented”.
“Practically nil is a bit like saying ‘practically not pregnant’!
“It looks like the government is reacting much too fast. Why?”
“The news we are waiting for is that TUPEM has been cancelled” (TUPEM being the authorisation to use national maritime space for oil/ gas prospection).
“Currently the ship authorized to drill (SAIPEM12000) is anchored in the Canaries. From there to the concession area would take around a week – and let’s not forget that GALP’s CEO has often said in the past few months that they are ready to drill at any time”.
“So, until we hear TUPEM has been cancelled, the fight stays on.
“In my opinion, this is simply the government throwing more sand in people’s eyes”.
Whatever the reality behind the press release put out by combustibles market authority ENMC, the ‘news’ remains that secretary of state Jorge Seguro Sanches has put a large spanner in the works of GALP/ ENI’s plans.
Back in August executive president Carlos Gomes da Silva told journalists that the plan was to start drilling off Costa Vicentina’s pristine coast “between April and June” 2018 (click here).