Portugal’s Director General of Energy and Geology said today that the two Algarve on-shore drilling concessions awarded to Portfuel, owned by Sousa Cintra (pictured), "complied with the requirements" and that he did not have any choice in the matter.
Carlos Almeida said his directorate had no choice but to send a positive assessment to the ministry as Portfuel’s concession contract for the exploration and exploitation and extraction of oil "met all the necessary requirements," a claim vehemently disputed by activists.
At a hearing of the Commission for the Economy, Innovation and Public Works, the Director General of Energy and Geology, Carlos Almeida, said that "Effectively, the company met the requirements, although the Directorate posed some questions about the plan Portfuel had presented as it should have be better presented."
Campaigners point out that a key requirement from Portfuel was a three years' trading and safety record, something Portfuel could never provide as the company was only set up to apply for the oil and gas exploration licenses on offer, that it lacked records and had no specialist staff - in summary, Portfuel was not an oil and gas exploration company and should not have been allowed to continue its application.
Almeida’s Directorate did question some of the technical details of Portfuel's work plan but left the final political decision “in the hands of the Government of the time,” namely the former Minister for the Environment, Jorge Moreira da Silva.
Almeida said that the Minister could always have decided not to sign the exploration and extraction concessions but that "it was up to the Minister, he was in charge. It’s not for me to say anything more about it."
In fact Almeida had expressed his concern about Portfuel's suitability to Jorge Moreira da Silva but the deal went ahead at the Minister's insistence.
The current government asked the Attorney General's Advisory Council to give an opinion on the two contracts.
The conclusion was that the Portfuel deals were valid, but that even if they had not been valid, a six month period had gone by, so the government could not have challenged the deals anyway.