Preparations are now well under way for Siroco, the Repsol project to drill for gas off the Costa del Sol. The scheme is still awaiting for the final go ahead from the Ministry of Industry but this is considered a mere formality. The environmental impact report was favourable in 2011 and in May the government reaffirmed its support for the project, despite direct opposition from town halls, political parties, business owners, fishermen and environmentalists in the province of Malaga.
Repsol is wasting no time and is already finalising its logistical preparations ready to drill off the Mijas and Fuengirola coastline between February and April, the period approved to avoid the peak tourism season and fit in with the fishing close season and the reproduction and migration periods of birds, whales and dolphins.
Drilling platforms are not easy to come by at the drop of a hat, and rent can be as much as half a million euros a day. Repsol is currently studying several options and plans include an alternative destination just in case the government’s green light doesn’t come in time. (They did this in 2011, moving instead to Morocco.)
The drilling off Punta de Calaburras is expected to go on for 29 days, a period that would be extended to 41 days for production tests if gas is found. These tests involve burning the extracted gas for several days to determine whether it is of the required quality to be sold on the market.
If the result is positive the site will be sealed over and Repsol will have to start applying for new permits to extract the gas.
Meanwhile the company is planning a visit to the province to explain the project to all interested parties (town halls, tourism professionals, fishermen) in an attempt to calm their fears and suspicions.
Repsol also has to present the central, regional and local authorities with a contingency plan in the case of fuel or gas leaks.
The Environment Ministry has demanded a financial and environmental restitution plan and an insurance policy to compensate for any damage caused to the area.