Repsol drops Canaries oil exploration

Energy giant says samples found off Lanzarote suggest small reserves of poor quality

A conservationist observing Repsol's drilling ship last November.
A conservationist observing Repsol's drilling ship last November.andrés gutiérrez

Energy giant Repsol announced on Friday that it was terminating its oil and gas exploration in Canary Island waters, as reserves were found to be too small and of poor quality.

“An analysis of samples obtained from the Sandía site survey confirmed the existence of gas – from methane to hexane – but lacking the volume and quality required to consider future extraction,” said the company in a press release.

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The firm said the deposits were saturated with water and only present in thin, non-exploitable layers.

“No additional investigation will be conducted in the area, and the dynamic positioning vessel Rowan Renaissance will return to Angola to continue the hydrocarbon exploration program that Repsol is carrying out in that country,” the note added.

Repsol began surveying waters off the Canary Islands in November of last year. The project drew vocal opposition from the regional government, which feared the risk of an oil spill in an area that depends on tourism and fishing for its livelihood.

Canarian authorities even called for a regional referendum on the issue, although Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended it.

Repsol had estimated a success rate of 15 to 20 percent for surveys conducted around 60 kilometers off Lanzarote, in a section named Sandía. The company had permission to explore two other sections, dubbed Chirimoya and Zanahoria, but these plans have been dropped. The 2,211-meter-deep hole drilled into the seabed will now have to be sealed.

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