A disturbing report by Algarve based eco-association ASMAA states that the Algarve is at an increased risk of earthquakes due to drilling activity in the search for offshore gas.
"The Algarve’s offshore areas are 'geologically fragile' and substantial gas extraction is now known to initiate earthquakes," according to eco-conservationist Laurinda Seabra.
"In an unstable area such as the sea around the SW coasts of Portugal, where much tension may have been built up since the earthquake of 1755, such earthquakes may trigger a much larger catastrophic earthquake. I suggest that more attention is given to these very important facts," according to expert Eng. Anthonie van den Brink.
Jose Manuel Soria, the Spanish Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism said recently that it appears that there is a direct relationship between the gas extraction industry and earthquakes. He went on to say that Spain is conducting a full investigation as to the cause of hundreds of recent earthquakes near offshore drilling areas.
But in Portugal the exploration of gas reserves off the Algarve's coastline continues unabated despite locals complaining of cracks caused by an increasing number of tremors, especially in the Eastern Algarve.
On May 4th 2012 there was an earthquake that measured 3.7 on the Richter scale which was felt in Olhao e Sao Bras de Alportel. This earthquake coincided with Repsol’s seismic surveys off the Algarve coastline, were the two linked? Some locals commented that they feared a repeat of the 1755 earthquake but what worries the experts is the emerging link between oil and gas drilling and earthquakes.
In an area that is at risk of seismic activity such as the Algarve, private economic interests are favoured instead of the safety of local populations and infrastructure.
The Portuguese government remains silent about these risks and no environmental impact assessment was been carried out before issuing drilling licenses for Portugal's offshore blocs. The oil companies Repsol and Partex have the exploration rights off the Algarve's coastline and have issued no statement on the link between earthquakes and drilling activity, nor are they likely to, so Saebra sees it as imperative that the public is better informed as to the risks involved, especially when balanced against the shamefully poor deal for Portugal should reserves be found and extracted by Partex and Repsol.
For the full ASMAA report, click on: