Oil prospecting controversy


Possibility of oil exploration in Gulf of Valencia raises environmental fears

Jan 11th
British based company "Oil and Gas capital" has asked permission to prospect for oil and gas in an area known as "Polyphemus" The area is a large rectangle that effects 13 municipalities and is located between Tavernes Valldigna, Gandia, Carcaixent and Barx. It is the first to include both terrestrial and marine areas. There has been considerable opposition, including a statement from the Mayoress of Denia who is concerned about the possible negative effects of the prospecting, and subsequent well development, on the Cabo de San Antonio Marine Reserve (Montgó Natural Park), fishing industry and tourism. From Las provincias: Otra empresa....and Denia alerta....

Timetable - Cairn, a Scottish oil and gas exploration company:

  • January 2011: Spanish Government awarded an Oil Exploration Permit to Capricorn Oil company (owned by CairnEnergy), which cover 4 large offshore areas (totalling 3922 sq km) in the Bay of Valencia near Ibiza. This Offshore Permit is valid for 6 years, allowing for the drilling for Oil and Gas in the Gulf of Valencia.
  • 2011-2012: the British Oil company was making "Environmental Impact Studies" as required by Spanish Laws, which was offered to the Spanish government in February 2012.
  • 2013-2014: the British Oil company performs "Seismic or Geophysical analysis" (similar to Ultrasound analysis in the human body).
  • 2015-2016: the British Oil company will drill one or more Oil Exploration wells (forages en français) on the Spanish Seas of the Mediterranean.

Oil company Cairn's brochures:

English - Click on thumbnail to enlarge


Spanish - Click on thumbnail to enlarge



Pouring oil on troubled waters

Feb 9th 2014

In 2011, Cairn, a Scottish oil and gas exploration company, obtained licenses from the Spanish government to explore for oil off the Eastern coast of Spain at Cabo de la Nao which lies between the Gulf of Valencia and the island of Ibiza. The licenses allow the company to operate drilling rigs and oil platforms in its search for oil and it is currently awaiting the go ahead from the Spanish government to commence its initial exploration. Now as that moment draws closer environmental organisations such as Oceana which in the last two years have carried out ecological studies of the area, warn of serious potential environmental impact from the seismic surveys and drilling. Its view is that many protected areas and nearly 200 species could be affected if the company is given the green light.

Now local politicians have weighed into the debate with Balearic regional president José Ramón Bauzá voicing his opposition to the scheme which he believes will have an adverse effect on tourism in all of the islands. The EU is also watching from the sidelines and will need convincing that environmental safeguards are put in place before giving its blessing to proceed.

Five oil refineries operated by local company Repsol already exist in Spain and some would argue that a new plant could provide much needed work for locals especially during the economic downturn. Opponents to the scheme insist that there would always be the risk of catastrophic oil leaks beneath the sea such as that witnessed in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 which would cause the destruction of countless fish, mammals and birds. It is also argued that the oil rig would be situated in the path of the western Mediterranean’s migratory corridor used by whales, dolphins and turtles and that there would inevitably be an accumulation of toxic chemicals during the second and third phase of the project. And there is also growing concern about how the disruption might impact on marine plant life, especially the endangered meadows of Posidonia oceanica -that have UNESCO Heritage status – which have a crucial role in preserving the Mediterranean’s ecosystems and offer an important habitat for invertebrates including larvae and young fish. In 2006 a huge colony of ancient posidonia considered to be up to 100,000 years old – one of the most extensive and oldest on earth – was discovered south of Ibiza and islanders and environmentalists fear for its future.


Pouring oil on troubled waters in Ibiza

By Anna Nicholas

France has cancelled the oil exploration permits in the Mediterranean. Oceana asks that Spain does the same

Feb 7th
“We ask Mariano Rajoy’s government to do the same as Nicolas Sarkozy did in France and disallow all oil drilling in the Mediterranean,” said Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “The French Conservative leader said that it was not a question of choosing between environmental protection and growth, but of simply opting for sustainable development. These words show that oil exploitation is a political decision. The only question is whether to opt for short-term or long-term policymaking.” For full story see: Oceana.org

Xàbia joins the anti oil exploration movement

Feb 13th
Xàbia town hall has actively joined the campaign to stop oil exploration in the Gulf of Valencia. The campaign has already reached the Committee on Petitions at the European Parliament, and fishermen are looking to bring the issue to the EU court of justice. There are concerns about the environmental effects of the sounds, audible 36 km away, used in exploration which can cause fish deaths and affect fish stocks. Should oil be discovered, there is also the threat of oil spills and environmental and landscape impacts along this coast which dependent on tourism. ((Las Provincias) in Xàbia, all political parties agreed to oppose the oil project and is organising the collection of signatures on Saturday from 4 to 6pm at the Arenal, and on sunday morning at Pinosol Park. They have set up a Facebook page “Xàbia Diu No” - "Javea Says No" and a form to submit a personal complaint can be downloaded from the municipal website: http://www.ajxabia.com/node/9124 . From Press Release.

Precis of the petition allegations:

Allegations: (a brief precis in English)
1. The three phases (seismic exploration, exploratory drilling and commercial exploitation of the wells) are parts of the same indivisible project and their effects could be cumulative.
2. The Impact Assessment study did not analyse or take into account the phases which follow seismic exploration. This implies a fragmentation of the project which undervalues its environmental and economic impacts
3. There is robust rejection of this project, both by society at large and businesses. The project is incompatible with the way of life of our people who base their wealth and future on activities related to the exploitation of tourism, natural resources and fishing. The public perception is of a series of risks (chemical pollution, increase in seismic activity, loss of biological diversity.)
4. The environmental impact is critical and unknown – negatively affecting the survival of many marine species.
5. The impact assessment study avoids analysing major environmental impacts to avoid having to recognize the infeasibility of the project:

  • Failed to analyse the possible impacts on ZEPAS (bird protection areas)
  • Underestimated the impacts on the migration routes of whales and dolphins (one species in danger of extinction)
  • Underestimated the impacts on other marine species.

We therefore ask that you declare that this project has an adverse environmental impact.

Oil prospectors target Balearics

Feb 19th
Residents and politicians are alarmed at plans to start drilling in the Mediterranean…"Spain's determination to explore for hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean is completely out of kilter with European environmental policy, and turns a blind eye to all the evidence about the impact of climate change," says Ricardo Aguilar of environmental NGO Oceana. "Fortunately, the government still has time to turn down applications to explore in Spanish waters…The oil companies involved in the exploration say that opposition to their plans to drill for hydrocarbons beneath the seabed is based on "a profound lack of understanding" of the techniques involved. For full story see: El Pais in English

Report reviews impact of oil and gas drilling activities on EU fisheries

Feb 19th
According to report by Dr David Green and Dr Cristina Gomez of the University of Aberdeen’s Institute for Coastal Science and Management (AICSM) we currently do not know enough about the spread and persistence of oil pollution and chemicals in the environment or on fisheries and we need to know more about where the oil ends up, how toxic it is, and how long it will affect different fish species. Indeed it could remain in the ecosystem much longer than we think, in the food chain, and we need to know more. There are still many gaps in the scientific understanding that require more funding and more studies.” Dr Green added: “The impact of any major incident goes beyond the environmental fallout. After the Braer tanker spill off Shetland in 1993, there was a direct and sustained negative effect on local fisheries. “In many European countries—such as Italy, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands (and to a lesser extent the UK)—where fish consumption is high—there is growing concern about what impact oil and gas drilling may have on the fisheries resource—not to mention the effects on tourism and the economies of these areas.” From: Dailyfusion The full report can be found at: The Impact of oil and gas drilling activities on EU Fisheries


The Mayor and Councillor for Tourism are meeting tomorrow with the EU Commissioners for the Environment and Industry.

Press Release - Xàbia. Monday, March 17, 2014.

Xàbia’s Councillor for Tourism , Antonio Miragall and myself, will meet tomorrow in Brussels with a group of MEPs , to express our concern at the planned oil exploration project in the Mediterranean Sea, just over 20 kilometers from the coast of our town.

The meeting was arranged by the Valencian MEP Andres Perello, a member of the Parliamentary Committee for the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. We have ​​an appointment with Andres Perello himself, the president of this Commission, the German national Matthias Groote, its British coordinator, Linda McAvan and the Spanish MEP Teresa Riera, who is a member of the Committee for Industry, Research and Energy, who has already warned of the "potentially harmful” effects of oil exploration in marine and coastal environments.
I have stressed that this meeting is to demonstrate the social rejection of this project, "not only in Xàbia, but throughout the region." In fact, in the file we have prepared for this meeting we have the full support of plenary sessions of both Xàbia and Denia Town Councils, both totally rejecting oil exploration surveys, together with a summary of all the actions that are being taken in the Marina Alta to try to stop this. In this respect, I was recently in contact with my counterpart in Denia, Mayoress Ana Kringe , to inform her of our activities and begin coordinating joint actions which will be set out in a forthcoming meeting of the region’s mayors.

In the last few days I also met with Moses Erades, President of Xàbia’s Fishermen’s Association and a member of the Provincial Federation of Fishermen, a sector that could be severely damaged by the planned oil exploration in the fishing grounds of the region. Their concerns will also be transmitted to the European Parliament, plus the petitions of our citizens and the Platform for the Defence of the Coast of Xàbia .

Xàbia Town Hall hopes that the mediation of the European Parliament, as has occurred in the past, will result in curbing this project. With its high risk of damage to the environment and the economic sectors linked to tourism and fisheries it has generated major opposition on the part of our citizens.

European Environment Commission assures the Jávea mayor of a "comprehensive" monitoring the oil project in the Mediterranean [[#chulvibrussels]]

EU representatives willing to visit the Marina Alta to assess the social and economic affect of the surveys

** From Press Release**
Jávea. Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

Javea Mayor Jose Chulvi, detailed steps taken to put the current social opposition to the Marina Alta oil project (between the Gulf of Valencia and the Balearic Islands) to the European Parliament

Chulvi indicated that he and Councillor for Tourism, Antonio Miragall, held three meetings in Brussels. The first, with Nigel Smith, head of the marine unit of the Directorate General for the Environment who explained that the European Commission had already received information on this plan from the Government of Spain, and is "waiting to receive the environmental impact report and final decision on whether or not to carry out the extraction of hydrocarbons. "

He made it clear that, although the authorization for the marine soundings is a strictly national affair, Europe also has a say because it is responsible for ensuring that all environmental regulations are met with and that all phases of the EnvironmentalImpact Assessment are observed.

Specifically, Smith highlighted the stage of public consultation, which is where "most irregularities occur." This procedure, in addition to the environmental impact study, has to assess the social and economic impact of actions, respond to concerns and take them into into consideration in formulating the final decision. The environmental consultant recommended Javea to actively participate in this public consultation.

Finally, he asserted that all future surveys in Spain, their environmental effects and effects on marine habitats are subject to a sensitive and rigorous analysis by the European Commission on the Environment and its coordinator, Janez Potocnik, especially those planned in Mediterranean "as this is a closed sea and very sensitive to any type of disaster."

The head of the marine unit of the Directorate General of Environment thanked the representatives for the information provided by Javea and gave them their commitment to monitor all developments closely.

Another fruitful meeting was with Jo Lienen, German MEP responsible for exploration and fracking issues (and who was formerly chairman of the Environment Committee). Lienen also committed to follow all the problems unleashed by surveys and suggested that once the new European Parliament was formed after the election that a visit to Javea is organized to see in situ the demands and understand the social and economic circumstances that have generated outright rejection to the oil project in the Marina Alta.

Municipal representatives also held a meeting with the coordinator of the Parliamentary Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, Linda McAvan (UK), to whom they gave a dossier with all the information and conveyed the concern of Valencian coastal towns to plans for oil exploration in the Mediterranean, a situation that was already familiar to McAvan through a parliamentary question by MEP Valencia Andres Perello, who accompanied the Jávea representatives. The British official also gave her full cooperation.

The mayor thanked Andres Perello all his help and mediation, as one who had given them all the contacts and appointments in working together against the surveys.

Government advises against Oil exploration in the Gulf of Valencia

Dec 2nd 2014
The directorate general of the Sustainability of the Coast and Sea (Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment) has accepted the environmentalist case against oil prospecting in the Gulf of Valencia, and concludes that cetaceans, turtles and birds would be harmed if prospecting went ahead . Their report states that the project area of some 2400 km2 is within the proposed ZEPIM area (Zonas especialmente protegidas de importancia para el Mar Mediterráneo) of a migration corridor for whales, dolphins and sea turtles which are protected by European, National and regional laws as well as various international agreements. "Due to the huge area and the time period is considered that the negative potential effect on the marine fauna is of a magnitude enough to advise against the development of the project"says the report. The report, which was requested by the regional Departrment of Industry and Energy a year ago will now be sent to the oil company Cairns for its response. From Las provincias: El Gobierno...

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