Repsol begins searching for oil off Canary Islands coast

Firm says “extreme” safety measures are in place for work to find crude 3km below sea

Madrid -
‘The Rowan Renaissance’ ultra deepwater drillship that Repsol is using.
‘The Rowan Renaissance’ ultra deepwater drillship that Repsol is using.JAVIER BARBANCHO (AFP)

Spanish oil firm Repsol has begun its controversial search for oil off the coast of the Canary Islands. Prospecting work started at around 6.30am on Tuesday, company spokesman Marco Fraga told state radio broadcaster RNE, underscoring that it was a “precision” operation being carried out with “extreme” safety measures in place.

The work at the so-called Sandía (watermelon) site, which lies 54 kilometers off Fuerteventura and 62 from Lanzarote, has two targets – one at a depth of 1,920 meters and another at 3,100 meters – and is being undertaken by the latest generation ultra-deepwater drillship the Rowan Renaissance.

The Rowan Renaissance drillship costs around €1 million a day to rent

Able to move while it drills, the ship costs around €1 million a day to rent and is able to reach depths “four times greater” than those needed at the Canaries site.

The Industry Ministry last August authorized Repsol to carry out up to three prospecting operations off the Canaries coast. This is the first, and, depending on its success, the company will decide whether to go ahead with a second, dubbed Chirimoya (custard apple), at a cost of around €100 million. The third operation, dubbed Zanahoria (carrot), has for now been ruled out.

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