Onshore Algarve oil prospection “going ahead in 2016” despite united municipal opposition

A meeting to address Algarve borough councils’ united opposition to oil prospection throughout the region ended with national fuel entity ENMC saying State-backed plans will be going ahead anyway – with the most likely starting point being June next year.

Reporting on the meeting yesterday in Faro, national tabloid Correio da Manhã said the ENMC’s only proviso was that if oil, or indeed gas, is found onshore, and “if an environmental impact study is negative” authorisation for the next stage – production – would not be forthcoming.

ENMC has stressed throughout this debate that well over €900 million has been invested in hydrocarbon prospection in Portugal since 1939, without any of the finds being considered commercially viable, said CM.

But it is an argument that has failed to convince either the region’s mayors, or local people, who fear the current concessions covering every borough in the Algarve bar Albufeira and Alcoutim could be focused on extracting shale gas, i.e. fracking.

AMAL, the association of borough councils, thus remains determined to try and reverse the deals signed by Portugal’s centre-right government weeks before it left office.

Talking to SIC television, which filmed outside AMAL’s headquarters yesterday – covering the arrival of ENMC representatives and the protest mounted by a handful of anti-oil campaigners – ENMC president Paulo Carmona explained that irrespective of the move towards renewable energies “there is still a global market for hydrocarbons” and “we continue to need them in everyday lives”.

Prospection plans will be going ahead, he guaranteed, giving likely start dates of “June and September of 2016”, but stressing that if anything “significant” was found, production was unlikely to move forwards before 2020.

Carmona explained: “If they discover oil in the Algarve, or gas, or anything else, obviously all the processes of public consultation will go ahead”.

Reacting to Carmona’s statements, AMAL president Jorge Botelho told SIC his association was committed – as it has already explained in a hard-hitting statement alluding to the “cloak of secrecy” surrounding the concession deals – to doing “everything to reverse this process”.