The Mediterranean could turn into another “Gulf of Mexico”

Italy plans to grant dozens of oil exploitation licences in the Adriatic and Central Mediterranean, even though the Mediterranean is in fact the most hydrocarbon-contaminated sea of the world

Press Release Date: May 6, 2010

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana warns against the danger of oil spills in the Mediterranean Sea due to the many projects currently in course. Despite the serious consequences of offshore oil spills, as proven by the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico, various Mediterranean countries have decided to grant new licenses to open oil exploitation in the Mediterranean. At the same time, the development of clean energies such as marine windmills falls behind.

Italy already has 66 active wells, mostly concentrated in the Adriatic and south and west of Sicily, and plans to open at least 24 more. Some of these activities are carried out harming seamounts and other highly valuable ecosystems. The most seriously affected areas would include the islands of Egadi and Pantelleria (Shell) west of Sicily, the coasts of the Ionian Sea in Calabria and Basilicata, and most of the Adriatic coast, including the entire area facing Puglia and the island of Tremiti, the waters facing Abruzzo and areas only five miles from Venice. The new licenses would benefit companies like Shell, Petroceltic Elsa, ENI, EDISON, Mediterranean Oil and Gas, Cygam gas, Vega Oil, Forest Oil, Northern Petroleum Limited or Audaz Energy.

There are dozens of active oil wells in the Mediterranean, especially in waters of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Malta and Croatia, where there are plans to grant new oil exploration permits.

In Spain, oil drilling is mainly concentrated off the Tarragona coast, in the fields of Casablanca, Rodaballo Angula and Montanazo D. Natural gas exploitation takes place mainly in the Gulf of Cadiz and facing cape Matxitxako. Oil and gas exploration has also been authorised in waters in front of Malaga, Asturias and the Canary Islands, and the licences for the Valencia, Granada and Almeria coasts are pending to be granted.

The Mediterranean is already the most contaminated sea of the planet, absorbing between 400,000 and 650,000 tons of petroleum, oils, oil residues, etc., every year.

Just the opposite that is happening with the authorisations to build offshore wind farms.

According to information from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), there are 83 only MW offshore wind farms in Italy currently under construction as well as an announcement from Italian authorities for the installation of 2 GW offshore wind farms in 2020. On the other hand, there are currently no megawatts offshore wind farms off the Spanish coasts and recently the Spanish government announced the possibility of installing 5,000 MW offshore wind farms for 2020. This information should be verified in the next Renewable Energy Plan.

“Unfortunately, and despite the impact of oil exploitation at sea, governments continue turning a deaf ear to climate change and marine contamination, choosing dirty technologies instead of firmly supporting renewable energies”, stated Ricardo Aguilar, Research Director for Oceana Europe.

Oil spills. Feature article in Oceana’s website