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Sea Minister fails to understand Algarve oil contracts

oilrigThe Minister of the Sea today was asked about oil exploration in the Algarve and said there was no economic reason that would force the state to compromise Portugal’s natural resources and that attacks on the environment would be resisted.

"Our sovereign obligations are to defend our territory. This means having to preserve and ensure the environmental sustainability of our resources; we have to protect our territory and its communities against irreversible or grievous harm so it is not lightly that these things are done," said Ana Paula Vitorino referring to oil and gas exploration currently underway.

Vitorinho was visiting a Science and Technology Park at the University of Oporto and warned that the country needs to know what resources it has, so "there is no harm in exploring to see if there are minerals, gas, oil," and that there will be "an assessment if there is a dispute between several activities.”

The Minister fails to understand that there is no such break point in the offshore contracts where discussions may take place. The concession contracts allow the oil companies to explore for, dril and extract oil or gas while the government stands by.

In the Algarve there is a clear dispute between two activities; exploration for oil and natural gas on the Algarve’s land and adjacent seas: and tourism.

Vitorino’s response to direct questions was at best vague but she and the Prime Minister both now have said that they "just want to see what is there."

Both have failed to read the concession contracts which cover all aspects of the offshore and onshore exploration process, from initial studies and exploration to full production and abandonment, including environmental rehabilitation.  

The concession contracts for the onshore Algarve do contain a provision for the use of Hydraulic Fracturing, (Fracking), and other unconventional technologies which is restricted and subject to approval by the National Entity for the Fuel Market (ENMC).

Currently, each concession holder says that the use of Fracking is not foreseen but the public, the regions’ mayors and business associations involved in tourism do not want any exploration on the Algarve’s territory.

‘Just seeing what’s there’ is a dangerous government stance and is not possible to achieve as the oil companies can do whatever they want within the contract parameters.

Repsol already has spent over 50 million USD on surveying and will fully expect to carry on unhindered to the extraction stage if oil or gas is found - it has a contract that allows this.

Ministerial assurances of just seeing what's there for the good of the nation are too late and, if being generous, misguided.

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