Re: Drilling for gas will be ‘clean and safe’

Dear Editor,
When I first read the headline of Len Port’s article (last week), to my mind came an old washing-powder commercial in South Africa: “It’s good, It’s clean, It’s fresh, tra-la-la … which washes all your dirty linen whiter than white” … and you must forgive me for asking if Repsol/Partex is trying to “whitewash” the impact of their proposed gas and oil operations in the Algarve.
I expect that anyone reading about Repsol comments in the press would ask: why has Repsol failed to qualify and quantify their “clean and safe” statement? After all, there isn’t much public information on what they are really planning on doing, is there?
We truly believe it’s time for the Repsol/Partex consortium to come “clean” and state publicly what they will be doing, what the real impacts will be and to engage with the local communities.
Although we welcome their statement that they will be doing an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), if they are really serious about the environment and safety as they state, then we should expect the Repsol/Partex consortium to commission a full ESIA (Environmental and Social Impact Assessment) for the prospecting stage as well as the final development.
Anything short of this would not really be acceptable – and I trust they will not come up with comments such as “it’s too soon to complete an ESIA’, because any responsible company would be doing a ‘strategic ESIA’ at this stage, don’t you agree?
Furthermore, it’s my opinion that this report should be made public, so that it can be scrutinised by independent experts. And while we are at it, we would welcome answers to questions such as:
1. How many local jobs would the project create?
2. How many contracts would be awarded to local companies?
3. What would be the tax, royalties and other financial contribution of the project to the Portuguese economy?
Telling us that it is too early in the game to provide answers to the above questions as well as others that have already been posed sounds really like a “whitewash” answer – after all, as we all in the industry know, by now they have a pretty good idea of the outcome and their strategic planning is well advanced, if not already finalised, which should enable them to provide all the answers and information needed to have informed local communities.
On the subject of pollution, in which the Repsol spokesperson stated: “One basic difference between gas and oil is that gas evaporates and oil needs containment on water surfaces. In the event of a well failure, gas spills are easier to control than oil spills, as the gas is not retained in the seawater. No water pollution is generated and the hydrocarbon bubbles into the atmosphere until well control is achieved.”
I refer to the article “US Climate Bomb is Ticking: What the Gas Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know” written by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers published in in which the writers made the following very interesting comment: “Extraction of oil and natural gas trapped in shale rock far below the earth’s surface is an attempt to collect the last fragments of hydrocarbons for fuels and manufacturing. As fossil fuels dwindle, the methods of acquiring them are becoming more extreme. In addition to hydrofracking, others are deepwater oil drilling, mountaintop removal, uranium mining and tar sands excavation. The industry is going to great lengths to hide the impact of these extreme methods and to promote them as safe and necessary energy sources, even falsely calling them ‘clean’.”
I find it an amazing coincidence that the same choice of words is used by the Repsol/Partex spokesperson … “gas is clean and safe” … hmm!
There is no doubt that the truth and the risks are a lot more complex than Repsol/Partex would want us to believe. In fact, according to a study conducted by Stanishlav Patin which has been published in his book “Environmental Impact of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry”, there are major risks, to marine organisms and to human life, of deep-sea gas exploration and exploitation.
We have not changed our opinion that Portugal deserves better, safer and cleaner forms of energy sources, such as wind, solar and wave energy programmes, rather than focusing on fossil fuels to meet our energy needs which are far from being “clean and safe” in our opinion.
Laurinda Seabra
By email