Concessionaires Eni and Novatek found no oil or gas deposits in their exploration well, below the Adriatic Sea offshore Montenegro, so environmentalists are relieved. However, the companies may drill another, shallower hole, while Energean is looking for a partner for gas exploration.
State Secretary in the Ministry of Capital Investments Marko Perunović, responsible for energy and mining, said Energean must inform the Government of Montenegro by March 15 whether it found a partner for gas exploration. He claims the company is optimistic about the outcome.
Preliminary results showed there are no hydrocarbons in the first offshore well
London-based Energean has an opportunity to drill four wells. Perunović told public broadcaster RTCG that it would be known within six months whether Eni and Novatek would bore another test well after coming up empty-handed in the initial attempt.
There was no oil or gas in the first hole, according to the state secretary, who cited preliminary information provided by the management of the Italian-Russian joint venture. The official results are due within six months, Perunović said.
No capacity to react in case of oil spill
Civil activist and environmentalist Aleksandar Dragićević said the fact that the first hole turned up dry is fortunate for the Adriatic Sea, the coastline and the people of Montenegro. The financial terms were bad for the country, he told RTCG.
“Now that the saga of Montenegro becoming Kuwait is finished, we can join the rest of the world which is turning away from fossil fuels with investments in green technologies,” according to Dragićević.
Noise and vibrations are fatal for fish, dolphins and sea turtles
Ecologists and environmental protection groups have been warning that the country has no capacity to deal with a potential oil spill. Dragićević noted that the responsibility is on the concessionaire and that it would need to ship the equipment to contain the oil slick all the way from Italy.
Nina Pantović from environmentalist organization KOD pointed out that it is unknown how much drilling is ahead and who would repair the damage to the sea’s ecosystem.
“Noise and vibrations are fatal for fish, dolphins and sea turtles. The reports on the method of the works and the consequences of the drilling still aren’t accessible to us,” she stressed. Montenegro is leaning on decisions of energy corporations instead of its actual development needs, and more drilling would decrease the value of the shore, according to Pantović.
Only Italy exploits oil in Adriatic
If Eni and Novatek met all the conditions with regard to the first test well, they will receive back the banking guarantee of EUR 73 million. The second hole would be shallower, up to 1,500 meters, and the banking guarantee would be EUR 12 million.
Several test holes were drilled offshore Montenegro from 1975 to 1991 with promising results, but the research was insufficient.
Neighboring Croatia is producing offshore gas, but the plan to allow more exploration drilling was abandoned six years ago under public pressure and because potential investors withdrew from the projects. Italy has dozens of oil and gas platforms on its side of the Adriatic. Albania allows exploratory offshore drilling, but the projects have been dormant for many years.