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Questions raised over delays in gas exploration

By PAULO SILVESTRE [email protected]

The boss of a Portuguese oil and gas company has called for the exploration of two blocks off the Algarve coast to be confirmed, saying the region could be rich in natural gas.

António Costa Silva, president of Partex in Portugal, a company specialising in searching for oil and natural gas, told Lusa news agency: “Natural gas has already been identified off the southern Gulf of Cadiz in Spain. This area has a similar geological make-up as off the coast of the Algarve.

“We are predicting that there are some blocks of natural gas that may have some potential and, if gas is found there, the potential could reach 20 times that which was found in southern Spain, in the field of Poseidon, which was operated by the Spanish petrol company Repsol.”

In June 2010 at a conference in Loulé, he criticised the Portuguese government for the delay in the search for natural gas in the Algarve, saying that the region possibly had enough reserves to cover domestic consumption in Portugal for almost 15 years.

In 2002, Repsol won the bid for the exploration rights in the area concerned but it is still waiting for permission from the Government to start the works.

António Costa Silva believes that this could save the country between €1,400 million to €1,500 million per year. “The possible discovery of natural gas offshore in the Algarve could generate employment and reduce the country’s external energy dependency,” he says.

“Repsol won the right to exploit these two blocks located southwest of Cape St Vincent, near Sagres. I don’t understand why contracts have not yet been signed.”

He added that the main reason why Repsol is not already on the field is due “to pressure from Algarve tourism authorities to delay the natural gas exploration project in that area”.

Nuno Aires, the President of the Algarve Tourism Board (ERTA), told Lusa news agency: “We reject the accusation made by the Partex president that the tourism authorities in the region had exerted any kind of pressure to delay the project.

“I don’t have knowledge of any study revealing any incompatibility between the exploration of natural gas and tourism activities in the region. Both activities can be developed for the wealth of the Algarve.”

Do you have a view of this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]