Repsol, Partex and Portfuel prepare for Algarve ‘oil and gas showdown’

Less than three weeks since national media announced that the government was rethinking controversial gas and oil exploration licences in the Algarve, companies Repsol, Partex and Portfuel have all intimated they are ready to fight.

Portfuel was the first: millionaire owner Sousa Cintra confirmed at the beginning of the week that he was in no mood to compromise.

“The government has no reason at all to rescind (onshore licences covering 14 of the Algarve’s 16 boroughs) because we have always complied with everything”, he told Expresso, adding that “now there is no more to be done. Now it is time for the courts”.

Days later it was the turn of Repsol/ Partex, the consortium sharing four offshore concession areas – two of which the government is purportedly ‘reconsidering’.

According to Expresso last night (Thursday, 9pm), the two companies “will be initiating conversations with the government” but could end up going to court “like Sousa Cintra”.

The paper claims “the companies will first contest” the government’s decision “with the ENMC” (the national entity for the combustibles market).

A source for the Secretary of State for Energy has told Expresso that the “process is already underway”, and that it is “very probable” the issue will end up in court, “because the companies consider the decision has no foundation”.

National media explained before Christmas that the ENMC was preparing to seize the Repsol/ Partex ‘deposit’ (a cool €4.5 million) because the consortium had not started drilling on schedule. The companies however say they delayed because of “new processual demands”, and that they requested extra time months ago.

Expresso adds that the government has until January 31 to decide whether or not it will go ahead and ‘appropriate’ Repsol/ Partex’s hefty deposit.

But the so-called ‘early Christmas present’ for campaigners leading the fight to free the region from the threat of gas and oil drilling is suddenly looking rather insubstantial.

Battling CEO of ASMAA Laurinda Seabra told us today she had “been expecting this since the beginning of the saga on December 14” (see: http://portugalresident.com/government-blocks-algarve-oil-and-gas-drilling-0).

“I always felt Repsol would argue the case as their contract enables that to happen”, she said.

Indeed, Seabra was ‘wary’ of the good news when it started gaining traction, saying it was far too early to ‘launch fireworks’.

“What concerns me most are the details we are not being given”, she said.

And, of course, the so-called rescission of two of Partex/ Repsol’s contracts and the two held by Portfuel are just four in a universe of eleven – a universe which ASMAA points out may not be finite:

“There is nothing to stop the government issuing new concession tenders, or signing new contracts in the future”, Seabra warns.

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PHOTO: Sousa Cintra talking to reporters of his ‘surprise’ over the government’s decision to rescind his onshore drilling contracts