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Bitter Partex chief questions Algarve oil exploration

oilrig2The Chief Executive of Partex Oil and Gas, the company in partnership with Spain’s Repsol to drill and extract oil and gas off the Algarve’s coastline, has decided enough is enough and if the company is not made to feel welcome, there are plenty of other places that it can drill.

In a bitter commentary, CEO António Costa Silva (pictured below), showed clearly the vestiges of Portugal’s old regime where corporate power overcame popular opinion using a complicit government.

Partex is owned by the Gulbenkian Foundation which receives 100% of the oil company’s profits to fund its charitable works, a position that has become increasingly uncomfortable.

Gulbenkian’s Corporate Affairs spokesperson has been unable for three years to comment on the conflict of interests between the foundation’s receipt of oil profits and programmes such as the Ocean’s Initiative aiming to “improve scientific knowledge and public and political perception of the benefits of marine and coastal ecosystems.”

"If Portugal is governed for the polls, for public opinion and populism, the country is not going anywhere," said Silva whose lack of success in overcoming the Algarve’s ever-growing anti-drilling movement has led to failure, sourness and, it seems, a lack of understanding of the basics of modern government.

Laurinda Seabra, leading one of the early protest groups ASMAA, commented,  “the CEO of Partex, deserves an Oscar for his latest performance. I guess that Gulbenkian’s interest in the performing arts has led to him acquiring fantastic acting skills to portray Partex (and the oil and gas industry) as the ‘victims’ in Portugal, because the people of the Algarve failed to receive the industry with ‘open arms and a loving welcome’ -who does he think he is kidding?”

António Costa Silva says that giving up exploration off the Algarve coastline is "stifling the future of the sea in Portugal."  

"Do not think that offshore wind energy will be developed without the technologies of the oil and gas industry, which launched all of this development," claimed António Costa Silva who announced in August that Repsol Portugal’s exploration activities off the Algarve coast were "under review, with no fixed date for drilling."

Partex owns but 10% of the consortium, Repsol 90% with the Spanish operator "deciding to cancel the drilling of the well" off the Algarve, leaving the currently project "paralysed and suspended" while discussions continue with the Portuguese authorities to see what can be done in the future.

"But we also have to consider the hostile and adverse environment that exists in the country in relation to oil and gas prospecting," bleated the Partex CEO, stating that "companies can operate in many areas of the world" and, "if in Portugal you do not want drilling, there are many other places in the world to go,” words that bring great happiness to the Algarve's anti-oil protestors and do little to create a positive impression of Costa and Partex.

According to António Costa Silva, everything "depends on the competent Portuguese authorities. Companies will do absolutely nothing without the endorsement and support of the authorities and also of public opinion."

"Companies are very pragmatic: if countries do not want them, they go elsewhere. When they feel they are not cherished or welcomed, they go elsewhere," which is the best news yet for the anti-oil groups.

For António Costa Silva, however, it would be "a pity" if Portugal did not focus on the development of natural gas, which "is the cleanest of fossil fuels and is a fundamental part of solving the climate problem," positioning it as "a solution to the world's energy matrix."

http://www.diario-algarve.pt/thumb.php?file=images/news/1479150788partex_acsilva.png&sizex=275&quality=100

According to Silva, "a country that does not grow and has had an anaemic economy for many years, which has two million poor people, which desperately need engines for economic development and who do not have stable public policies in these areas, will suffer greatly in the future."

"Moreover, if it is a country hostile to companies, to investment and wealth, which is what now is dominating the public arena, there will be no solutions for the future."

As for the exploration project off the Algarve coastline, the oil man said that everything has been identified and the idea was to start drilling the first well about 40 to 50 kilometres off the coast, to the south of Faro, in October this year.

Silva said this drilling activity "is perfectly compatible with the environment and tourism development." "It is possible to reconcile the environment and tourism with the development of resources and this resource would be the first wave of development of marine resources in the country."  

There has been no such farewell speech from Repsol, the majority partner in the concession, but should it carry on alone, the Spanish company will face the full force of activists and pressure groups from both Spain and Portugal whose resolve will have been hardened by this clear win over Partex.

One of the concerning aspects is Silva’s attitude to the Portuguese public and his clear irritation that government has not bent over backwards to the will of the corporate sector as had been normal in the past and had been expected in this case.

The Chief Executive of Partex Oil and Gas is living in an age gone by and his bitter adieu tastes sweet to the Algarve pressure groups and associations which understand the Paris agreement, global warming and the unique position Portugal’s Algarve still could have in producing renewable energy solutions rather than importing the problems associated with an oil and gas-producing economy.

As for António Costa Silva's future within Partex, it remains to be seen whether management's high-handed failure to engage in public debate, relying instead on the assumption that the government and a complicit Fuels Authority would see its plans overcome any 'local difficulty', will impact on his own career progression in this Cayman Island based, tax averse, oil group.