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Concerns Grow Over Oil Prospecting

Thursday February 16, 2012

Concerns Grow Over Oil Prospecting

The Spanish oil company Repsol is on the point of receiving permission from the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism to begin prospecting for petrol less than 25 kilometres off the south eastern coast of Lanzarote. A move that has obviously alarmed environmentalists as well as local residents – who have expressed concerns about the potential damage that any spill or discharge could do to Lanzarote’s all important tourist industry.

In total there are nine areas off the coastline of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura which cover 6,160 square kilometres of sea. And several of the areas lying off Lanzarote are within 30 kilometres of some of the most popular holiday beaches the island has. One of the areas is only 23.5 kilometres from Costa Teguise, whilst another is just 24.5 kilometres distance from Puerto del Carmen. A further field is just 28.5 kilometres from the northern ferry port of Orzola.

José Manuel Soria, who holds the arguably contradictory role of Minister for Energy, Industry and Tourism has insisted on numerous occasions that any prospecting would be conducted at least 50 miles away from the coastline of the islands to avoid any serious risks of contamination. However, 24.5 kilometres is in fact the equivalent of only 15 miles.

Concerned residents have been voicing their fears over the potential damage that oil prospecting could do to the tourist industry for the last few weeks. Which culminated in a demonstration in Arrecife last Friday as Sr. Soria attended a meeting with officials from the Lanzarote Government to discuss the possible go ahead for the project.

Like most other oil companies Repsol does not boast a clean record when it comes to the issue of oil spills. As recently as December 2010 the company was responsible for a spill 43km off the Ebro Delta, Tarragona in the Mediterranean which created a slick that was reported at the time to be the size of 2,000 football pitches. The company blamed human error for the incident. Other similar cases have also been reported as a result of Repsol's prospecting activities in the Mediterranean.

The proposed fields for neighbouring Fuerteventura are even closer to shore. The closest being 10.3 kilometres from the resort of El Castillo and only 13.5 from the island´s capital of Puerto del Rosario.

Given the current economic climate in Spain it very much looks like expedience will outweigh fears about any potential impact on the environment.

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