Thursday 26 January 2012

Costa del Sol opposes drilling for oil and gas


IGNORING longstanding local opposition, energy giants will continue the search for gas and oil deposits off the Andalucia coast. The first outcries were heard years ago from the tourist sector, coastal towns and environmentalist groups after the Ministry of Industry granted permits for offshore prospecting. Disapproval has now increased following authorisation for Canadian multinational CNWL to begin prospecting in the Mar de Alboran between Malaga and Granada. No date has been announced but work is expected to begin within a month over an area of 130,000 hectares off Almuñecar, Salobreña and Motril (Granada) and Nerja and Torrox (Malaga). Opponents to the project have intensified calls for the new central government in Madrid to revoke the licences and urged both the PP and PSOE to take action. Last year saw a wave of protests after Repsol YPF’s permits for prospecting off Mijas, Fuengirola and Marbella were extended until August 20, 2013. These initiatives, said Marbella’s lady mayor, Angeles Muñoz, were an attack on tourism “our principal source of income” as well as the environment. Professional fishermen are convinced that fishing grounds will be adversely affected and it would be still worse if gas or oil were eventually located and drilling authorised. This could spell ruin for the eastern Costa de Sol, predicted Jose Luis Guerrero, head of the Caleta de Velez fishing guild. Professor Juan Ignacio Soto of Granada University did not share Guerrero’s view, however. The system that would be used – known in Spanish as “air gun” because it uses compressed air – does not adversely affect marine life, he claimed. And while many Costa del Sol residents were horrified at the vision of oil rigs off the coast, others welcomed the possibility. “Wouldn’t this benefit the Costa del Sol and Spain?” was an often-repeated comment on Internet blogs. Meanwhile, retired engineer with 30 years experience in the offshore oil industry, now living in Axarquia, David M. Ritchie, 69. Ritchie said that in the case above there has been longstanding 'local' opposition. “One has to view this opposition carefully and try to ascertain whether it is well informed through good research or just some people, although dedicated to their cause, simply spouting uninformed hot air. I fear that on the Costa del Sol the latter applies.” “Evidently the tourist sector is to the fore in protest. One must ask why? I have read the comment that oil rigs are unsightly. In fact they are no more unsightly that container ships. ferries, oil/gas tankers and cruise liners.” “ One more different vessel will make no difference or do the tourist sector, coastal towns and environmentalist groups wish to ban all shipping?” he said. Opponents to exploration have evidently intensified their calls for the new government in Madrid to revoke existing licences and urge the two major parties PP and PSOE to take action. “My response to this is simply on what scientifically and engineering research do they base their protests?” he asked. “I suspect they have little or no knowledge of the exploration and exploitation of natural hydrocarbons industry. I fear that they simply feel they must protest without really knowing why.” Would not Spain benefit enormously from any oil and gas found off its coasts? In these days of worldwide recession would it be right for a nation to turn its back on income to benefit its people on the say so of a few noisy pressure groups? The answer must be a resounding no! “Let's really talk of protest groups/organisations. Consider one of the biggest or possibly the best known one, Greenpeace. There was a storage unit called the Brent Spar on the Brent oilfield in the North Sea. When it became redundant, the owner Shell wished to demolish it in situ. Greenpeace mounted a very effective campaign against this and Shell filling stations across the UK Europe were boycotted. Greenpeace told the world that the Brent-Spar contained so many dangerous chemicals which if released would wreak havoc with wildlife and humanity. Their campaign was so successful that Shell capitulated and towed the Brent-Spar to a fjord in Norway where it could be 'safely' demolished under close scientific monitoring and the death dealing chemicals could be identified and safely contained. What did these experts find? Nothing, absolutely nothing! All of Greenpeace's 'scientifically backed' predictions were proved to be nothing more than false and very loud posturing. Did Greenpeace go to any pains at all to tell the world that they had made a mistake? No! Not even the smallest 'oops'. Greenpeace were proved to be loud mouthed ignoramuses.” “I left the British Royal Air Force in 1969 and joined the fledgling offshore industry in early 1970. The offshore expertise in those days was American as they had been operating in the Gulf of Mexico. Within a very short time British expertise had left the Americans behind and British 'oilmen' became the crews of choice. It was in UK offshore operations where the present strict high operational standards were developed and honed. Development of safe practices went hand in hand with operational development and in the 30 years from 1970 to 2000 the whole industry became a safer one. But of course one can never eliminate accidents and the industry suffers from any accident being a major news item providing fodder for pressure groups who chose to ignore any statistics which in a global sense showed the offshore industry as a comparatively safe one. I have never been involved directly in any incident leading to injury or contamination. Likewise I have never seen any fishing adversely affected but have seen the opposite happen and fish stocks around an offshore installation increase. I agree with Juan Ignacio Soto of Granada University when he sees no problem from drilling operations or initial sonar type surveys. As a resident of Spain I welcome any exploration and exploitation of Natural hydrocarbon resources. Oil or gas finds turned into an industry would benefit the country and the people of Spain tremendously. To oppose the exploration for oil or gas is to deny a great source of income for the whole country, so I willingly oppose the opposers.”