The fearless battle of an entire region to protect our land, our beaches, our health, our traditions, our communities, our future. One by one, we have empowered the common man using the irresistible weapons of knowledge. To the oil companies that intend to destroy us, ENI, Petroceltic, MOG, Edison, Shell: let it be crystal clear.

You are not welcome here.

We will fight to the bitter end.

We shall defeat you.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The lies of Petroceltic regarding Elsa

Petroceltic International, a Dublin based company who is bulling its way around Italian lawmakers, is now trying to play nice and pass the message that their drilling plans are safe.

Hmmh. Reminds me of their BP friends. They even have a pretty "local community" website, where they fall short of telling us that they are the saviors of humanity. Of course, they are just oilmen who want to get their way, regardless of what us locals have got to say. Shame on them and all their friends - Mediterranean Oil and Gas, Forest Oil Corporation, Cygam Gas, Orca Exploration Group, Puma, Northern Petroleum and all the other oil companies that want to come drill Abruzzo, and Italy. This is not the place to search for oil.

I am an independent physicist, who reviewed Petroceltic's environmental statement on behalf of the Province of Chieti, and sent it to the Ministry of the Environment. It was crap. There was no risk assessment, no emergency plan, no simulations of pollutants in the water, in the air. They will not even tell us what garbage they will pollute our waters with. They repeatedly assured the Ministry (not the people!) that their drilling will have little to none environmental impacts.

We don't believe a single word they say, and remind Petroceltic that to this day NO ONE
in Abruzzo wants them, their oil rigs, their tankers, their lies.

Petroceltic is not welcome in Abruzzo. And this is not just my feeling but that of the Catholic Church, the Union of Winemakers, of Tourism operators, the Union of Merchants, the Province of Chieti, all municipalities along the Abruzzo coast, fishermen, professors, sports and cultural associations. To this day in Abruzzo NO ONE supports offshore drilling.


In their fancy Q&A website they say:

Q: How can local communities be sure a disaster like the one in the Gulf of Mexico, does not happen off the coast of Abruzzo?

Petroceltic: There are important differences between the circumstances in relation to deep water oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and the planned drilling operations near Abruzzo on the Adriatic Coast. The Elsa Field contains low pressure oil which is not capable of flowing naturally. A pump is required to bring oil to the surface. In contrast the deep water fields in the Gulf of Mexico are high pressure, meaning oil will naturally flow to the surface if left unchecked.

Furthermore, these wells in the Gulf of Mexico are at a depth of over 1.5 km from the surface. This requires a floating rig which means that the Blow Out Preventor (BOP) is located on the seabed, so containment of any problem has to be done remotely and is therefore much harder. In contrast, the rig for the Elsa 2 well would stand on the seabed in just 33 m of water. With this configuration the BOP is on the rig with a simpler control system which is accessible for repair or maintenance at all times.

Maria: Dear Sirs: in the Gulf of Mexico everyone said that drilling was safe, and that nothing bad was ever going to happen. The truth is that ONE CAN NEVER BE SURE about drilling, and that it is best to avoid such operations in such close proximity to shore. What if things went wrong even for a shorter period of time than in the gulf? Our way of life will be destroyed. We gain nothing with your wells and just increase the risk of ruining our beaches. Have you ever heard of the Santa Barbara oil spill? Of the Montara oil spill? Of the piattaforma Paguro? Of Trecate? Do you know that here in SoCal we have had no new offshore drilling for the past 40 years? There surely must be a reason. Funny, your oil does not float? What it defies the laws of physics? Petroceltic, you lost 6 million pounds in 2009. You won't have the resources to even begin a minor scale clean up, let alone a devastating one!

Q: I understand that Petroceltic is going to be drilling for oil in the Adriatic Sea. Is this confirmed?

Petroceltic: It is subject to a permit being granted by the Ministry of the Environment. The permit process requires a full assessment of potential impacts on the environment. A decision on this will be made in Q2 2010. This will allow Petroceltic to undertake exploration but not production.

Maria: Yes, and about 100 letters of opposition were sent to the Ministry of the Enviroment. Concerns were expressed by all political parties, the Catholic Church and dozens of citizens and activist groups. Never before has the Ministry been inundated with so many letters and statements of opposition. We simply do not want you here. Your plan also called for a permit to drill permanently, in case it was approved. Did you forget the words you yourselves wrote in your own environmental statements?

Q: If the process is approved when will drilling start?


An exploration well will be drilled in early autumn 2010, subject to permit approval from the Ministry of the Environment. This drilling phase will last approximately four months.

Maria: There is something called the Aarhus treaty, according to which local populations have the right to voice their concerns, and according to which their opinion is binding. If necessary, we will take this to the European courts. Your arrogance is disturbing, sirs, given you are an Irish company that knows nothing of Abruzzo.

Q: How will the drilling occur? Is there an oil rig?

Petroceltic: Yes there will be an oil rig (known as a drilling rig) on site for approximately four months. It will be located seven kilometers from the coast and will be visible as a small object on the horizon.

Maria: Oh really. And after that? Your plan is to drill us for at least 20 years. We don't want that. It will not be a small object, sirs. You obviously don't know anything about the local geography. On clear days you can even see the Tremiti islands, 80km away. The rig will be clearly visible, as will all the oil tankers and other on shore logistics operations you will need.

Q: Will this rig be visible from the beach?


It is seven kilometres from the shore – so it will be visible as a small object on the horizon.

Maria: That is your story , sirs. I know every nook and cranny of those beaches, and I tell you, your rigs and that of the others, including Mediterranean Oil and Gas, will be ahuge eyesore to us, not to mention all the junk they will pollute our waters with.

Q: There has been a lot of local opposition to this project. Will this be damaging to the environment?

Petroceltic: We have carried out a full environmental impact assessment and any effects will be very small. We will be using the Eco-Drilling Approach to minimize the impact of operations on the natural environment. This includes ensuring that no waste from the drilling process (such as rock cuttings) will be released in the sea and that robust systems are in place to prevent the accidental release of any oil

Maria: As said above your environmental report was crap. It was just talk, and not conducted at all in a scientific manner. Eco-drilling? Gimme a break. There is no such thing!!!! We all know that not even BP writes serious environmental impact statements, how can we trust you, a minor, penniless company? You did not even know that there are TWO fishing sanctuaries paid for by the European taxpayer within your lease!!! The whole world knows that ALL oil operations involve waste being thrown in the water. Even the Norwegian government acknowledges as much, on their official websites.

Q: What are you doing to alleviate local concerns?

Petroceltic: We have created this website to be transparent about our plans and to answer any questions that people have. We will also be meeting with interested parties to talk them through the project.

Maria: A little too late. Sirs, the time for websites is way past. To alleviate local concerns, all you really have to do is pack up and leave. What part of WE DON'T WANT YOU HERE don't you understand? And exactly what "interested parties" are you referring to? No mayor, no business wants you. Capisc?

Q: What is the risk of an oil spill?

Petroceltic: The risk of an oil spill is negligible as there are control systems in place to stop this happening. Furthermore, the oil well is low pressure – meaning oil will only come to the surface if pumped.

Maria: Yes, that is what BP - your buddies from the UK - told us in the gulf as well. We are smarter than that, thank you very much.

Q: If there is an earthquake what will happen to the rig and the oil?

Petroceltic: The rig is designed to withstand an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.5. If there was an earthquake all operations would be shut down according to well practiced emergency procedures.

Maria: Oh really. There was no mention of this in your environmental statement. And what if it is a magnitude 6 earthquake? And what if your emergency procedures failed? Do you know that in Basel the head of a drilling company is facing jail charges for causing earthquakes after drilling a rig in town for geothermal purposes?

Q: Can the drilling process cause an earthquake?

Petroceltic: Drilling does not cause earthquakes.

Maria: Ever heard of induced seismicity? Ever heard of Basel? Ever heard of Cleburne? Ever heard of Gasli? Abruzzo is already a highly seismic area, we don't need more risks than what God already gave us, thank you.

Q: Is there definitely quality oil in this area?

Petroceltic: Petroceltic believes that there may be commercially viable oil at Elsa 2. This cannot be confirmed until the analysis from the exploration phase is complete.

Maria: The oil Abruzzo holds is junk. It ranks very low on the API scale. Vasto has 11 API, Miglianico has 12 API. Elsa will not be much different. The lowest you can get on the API scale is 8 (= the Tar sands of Canada). Texas has 40. So, our oil is very poor quality, it is heavy sour oil. The best you can get is light sweet crude. Abruzzo oil is the bottom of the barrel, as ENI officials told me in a public debate. They never had the courage to debate us again.

Q: What impact will this have on tourism?

Petroceltic: We don't believe it will have any effect on tourism. The oil rig will be barely visible from the shore – so tourists may not even notice it. If we get the permit then activity will start in the autumn – outside the peak tourism period.

Maria: That is your misguided belief sir. As someone who knows the area, much more than you do, I tell you: it will be devastating. What does it mean that you will start drilling in the fall? What happens NEXT year? This oil rig has the potential to stay for 20 years. I hope you realize the absurdity of what you are saying. Have you ever heard of Texas as a prime beach destination?

Q: How much oil are you expecting to find?

Petroceltic: Elsa 2 is anticipated to have up to 100 million barrels of recoverable oil. The decision to go into production depends on the actual size of the reserves and the quality of the oil found.

Maria: This is not our problem. Abruzzo already produces more energy than what we need. As Irish people you will process and sell this oil on the free market. We are not here to help your business, thank you very much. We will not sit idly while you laugh your way to the bank.

Q: What financial benefit will there be to the local community?

Petroceltic: If the exploration phase goes ahead it will provide a financial boost to the region. We estimate that approximately half of the $38m costs of drilling the Elsa 2 will be spent on service companies and local businesses in the Province of Abruzzo.

Maria: What courage do you have to say this? What kind of local businesses exactly? Will you spend this on fishing? On tourism? On cleaning the waters? Italy's royalty system is one of the most generous of the world, and your investors know this because you yourselves say things like "simple fiscal regime, low royalties, insignificant leasing prices". Truth is, Italy will only charge you 4% of what you will earn. In Libya royalties are over 90%. In Norway about 80%. This, according to the Economist of London. There is no amount of money you can spend to convince us that turning Abruzzo into a gigantic oil field is right.

Q: What local services do you intend to employ?

Petroceltic: All of the specialist services on board the rig will be supplied from the region. In addition, transport companies, local hotels and restaurants will benefit.

Maria: You gotta be kidding me. Hotels and restaurants will benefit from 50 people that will come work on your rig? What about all the people that will stop coming to visit us? What local specialist services are you talking about? There are none, sir. This is an agricultural, wine-making area. We don't want to turn into Texas, nor into Calgary.

Q: How many jobs will be created?

Petroceltic: Approximately 40-50 people working on the rig will be from companies in the local area.

Maria: Oh really? How come to this day no Abruzzo labor union has come to defend Petrolceltic's labor plans? We don't even have people with that kind of expertise!!! The experience in Basilicata shows that oil companies tend to hire their own, from aborad, and that there is a net loss of jobs.

Q: How much wealth will be created for the community if production goes ahead?

Petroceltic: If commercial quantities of oil are discovered and a decision made to develop and produce the field, production will mean long-term investment and jobs for the region for potentially as long as 20 years. Petroceltic will also pay tax to the Province of Abruzzo if production goes ahead. It is impossible to give a figure at this point.

Maria: This is pure demagogy. Exactly what kind of jobs for the region? And what about all the others that will disappear? The tourist operators that will have no tourists? Do you know that the oil and gas industry has caused massive land subsidence in Louisiana? Abruzzo's beaches are frail enough as is. Impossible to give a figure. Then why did you say 38 milion just two lines above? Do you people even have your facts straight?

Q: What happens if you find commercially viable oil?

Petroceltic: A number of government permits will be required to undertake further appraisal or develop the field and produce oil. This would include permits from the Ministry of the Environment.

Q: What happens if you do not find commercially viable oil?

Petroceltic: The rig will be demobilised and the well sealed with cement. Nothing will protrude from the seabed.

Maria: So you are telling us our fate depends on whether you think there is enough oil underground? Once again, such arrogance. Sirs, those waters, those beaches belong to us, the Abruzzo people and not to you, a bunch of Irish white men in corporate suits. It is us who should decide whether we want to be drilled or not. Do you get it?

Q: Will the oil rig be visible from the coast?

Petroceltic: The rig will be positioned more than seven kilometres from the shore and it will be barely visible on the horizon.

Q: How much noise will the oil rig make?

Petroceltic: The rig will not be heard from the shore.

Maria: Yes, but we will see the rig, the oil tankers, smell the pollution, and again witness our sea turning into the Gulf of Mexico. We don't want that.

Q: What about the noise impact for sea-life?

Petroceltic: The noise level of the rig will actually be lower than that of a large seagoing vessel. Therefore, the impact on marine fauna is considered very low.

Maria: Hmmh. Don't you want to tell us that you will be using air-guns and that those have the potential to destroy the hearing and orientation system of dolphins and other sea creatures? And what about the tons of toxic waste you will dump into the water and that, being so close to shore, will affect the food chain, starting from the sea bed? And what if there is an explosion? What will happen to sea life then? Once again, there is no benefit for us, just risks. So keep your oil rigs in Ireland.

Q: Is there any chance a boat can collide with the rig?

Petroceltic: We have a designated safety zone around the rig to prevent unauthorised boats entering this zone. This extends for a radius of 500 metres and is enforced by an order of the harbour office.

Maria: What gives you the arrogance to think you can come to our waters and design a safety region for your sole usage? People currently fish in those waters. Such bullies. Also, for your information, testing of Ombrina Mare, another rig that your other friends at Mediterranean Oil and gas intend to drill, revealed that they had polluted the sea, after 3 months of operations. By the way, collision happens all the time. In Korea in 2007 a collision between an oil tanker and a rig caused a massive oil spill - that county's largest oil disaster to date.

Q: How long will it take to assemble and demobilise the rig?

Petroceltic: The rig is a mobile device that takes about one day to become operational after arriving on location.

Q: Will the oil be transported to land? If so how?

Petroceltic: Around 2000 bbls of oil will be pumped to storage tanks during the Elsa 2 exploration phase as part of the testing process. This will then be transported ashore for sale or disposal. There will be no pipes to the shore.

Maria: Hmmh. And what about the possible desulfurization after the exploration phase? What are the safety measures of these storage tanks? Are these FPSOs? Where will the desulfurization happen? We already scared ENI away, so there is no desulfurization facility on ground. Will this junk be magically purified?

Q: Will there be a lot of ships going to the rig? How many and how big will they be?

Petroceltic: Small supply boats will visit the rig daily to bring materials and supplies and to take waste away.

Maria: Yes, and your environmental statement mentioned nothing of the fact the routes you propose are already being traversed by tourist boats. What if there are collisions? Accidents? What if this waste being transported on a daily basis finds its way into the sea?

Q: Where will the ships dock?

Petroceltic: The supply boats will sail to/from the Port of Ortona.

Maria: Yes, and you would want the port of Ortona - right now a minor goods port and not an oil tanker one - to be turned into an oil shipping facility, right? So much for little impact.

Q: Will the community be involved in any decisions about the exploration programme?

Petroceltic: The Ministry of Environment is conducting a public consultation to review the views of a wide range of stakeholders. We will be holding face-to-face meetings with some interested parties to address their concerns.

Maria: This is false. So far the community was not involved in any way and there are not, nor have their ever been face to face meetings. Why, you don't even speak Italian, and have never ever ever even tried to come talk to the people. The truth is you thought you could quickly get your permits and do as you pleased. You were not expecting such fierce opposition from us, the people. This feeble attempt of "communicating" with us, now that you are scared, is pathetic and comes way way way after your investors have been informed of all drilling activities. Shame on you.

Q: Are there plans to drill elsewhere in the region?

Petroceltic: We have no immediate plan to explore in other parts of this licence at the moment. Elsa 2 is our focus.

Maria: That is a big fat lie. Don't you want to tell your investors about other out-of-this world plans to go drill le isole Tremiti in le Puglie? How can you be so heartless? Le isole Tremiti is a gem, you want to go drill 4km from shore!!! These are pristine islands beloved by the Italian people, and you should simply be ashamed of yourselves.

Q: What is the track record of Petroceltic in terms of health, safety and environmental standards?

Petroceltic: Petroceltic has a firm commitment to conduct all its operations safely and maintain high environmental standards. Petroceltic has not had any environmental or significant health and safety issues within its operations.

Maria: The truth is that NO OIL DRILLING is absolutely safe, and we have no desire of letting you drill our waters. The government of Norway concedes drilling is polluting and dangerous. I happen to trust them more than you.

Q: Who actually makes the decision to allow exploration to go ahead?

Petroceltic: A number of government permits are required. The approval of the Ministry of the Environment is a key requirement.

Maria: And we will do all we can to make our voices heard, dear Petroceltic of Ireland, who know nothing about Abruzzo, her people and aspirations. Once again:

Go drill the beaches of Ireland!