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The Galp/ENI oil drilling bureaucracy saga ... or when bureaucracy works in favour of the people.

Most of us are very familiar with Portuguese bureaucracy, what we not used to it is when bureaucracy is applied to the big boys, and especially to big oil.

Personally, I don’t think they (Galp/ENI) are used to it either, guess some of their “lobbying heads may be on the block ready for chopping”, especially when things appeared to be running so smoothly, as everything seemed to be just a mater of requirements being rubber-stamped right from word go – you need to go back to April 2016. (you can refresh your memory here)


It looks like that not only has the opposition to offshore drilling been highly effective in stirring the murky waters of the fossil fuel exploration endeavours, but that bureaucracy has risen its head too.


Here are some details of the offshore bureaucratic process that the Galp/ENI has had to contend with.

After the TUPEM licence was granted on the 11 January 2017, the operator (ENI) had only 30 working days in which to submit a cetacean-monitoring program (PMOC) if it intended drilling this year. Meaning that the deadline if they acted swiftly would be the 22nd February.


According to our information, the consortium did indeed submit such a document, which according to various sources is now being analysed by the ICNF (Instituto de Conservação da Natureza – Nature Conservation Institute) at request of the DGRM. The ICNF had 10 working days to give their opinion and approval, failing which the drilling operation cannot commence.


In addition, and according to the same sources, during offshore drilling operations, the ENI/Galp consortium has to employ two cetaceous specialists to monitor the safety of cetaceous, and to provide the specialists with the necessary acoustic monitoring equipment. These specialists in turn, will report to the appointed maritime authority on a weekly basis, which in turn will forward reports to ICNF for monitoring and record keeping.

And if above was not enough, the Galp/ENI consortium also had to submit a environmental monitoring plan about vulnerable ecosystems. This plan has to specify how it will measure the environmental impact of produced water. (http://asmaa-algarve.org/en/threats/offshore/offshore-environmental-risks-waste-waters), and its impact on vulnerable marine ecosystems. Once again thirty working days and another 10 working days for joint approval, this time by the DGRM and the IPMA.


Now, it appears that the Galp/ENI consortium had all the intent of drilling this year. Taking that into account, then for the consortium to comply with initial intent, they would have delivered their documentation by no later than February the 22nd (being 30 working days after the date of issue of the TUPEM licence). This would be followed by anoter10 working days required by the various government bodies, bringing it to 9 March. And only after this date would the ENI/Galp consortium be in a position to notify the DGRM of their intention to drill within 10 working days - meaning that from the 19 of March the consortium could have technically been in a position to drill.


But …

Many other factors played a delaying role as well:

  1. ASMAA’s petition which is an integral part of the public consultation process has not been debated in parliament yet – so the 42,000 objections have not been dealt satisfactory with.
  2. ASMAA has lodged a request for an investigation with the attorney general and the auditor general. These matters have not been concluded yet.
  3. Odemira council submitted an injunction which has been accepted by the courts, and which awaits now an award.


Bottom line

It is clear that a smorgeousbord of issues have led to major delays, which has prevented the Galp/ENI consortium meeting its contractual obligations this year. But because the TUPEM licence fails to be clear on the consequence of delays in meeting deadlines, the fact is that the consortium has until January 2019 to do so. The licence further states that the term of operation may last 60 days – and the timeline may be continuous or with brakes in between.


Now, all that rests for us mere mortals is for the courts to assess all the evidence and give an award in favour of the people instead of the consortium, which would see the cancellation of the TUPEM licence outright.


In the meantime, while all the bureaucracies take its course, we can safely say that we seriously doubt that the Galp/ENI will drill their first offshore exploration well this year. Should the courts award in favour of the consortium, we may have to face the risk that they will try again in 2018, or even in 2019.

For now … there’s not much more we can do, except wait and trust that justice will prevail.




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