September 23, 2019 - Almost a year ago, oil and gas exploration began in the Montenegrin part of the Adriatic Sea. Next year we will know if there are oil and gas in Montenegrin waters. The search for "black gold" is accompanied by protests by environmentalists who say it will destroy tourism and fisheries.
Montenegro's oil and gas exploration, which officially began last year, is set to show its first results next year. Namely, in the first quarter of 2020, it will be known whether there are oil and gas in that part of the Adriatic Sea, and what are the reserves. Montenegro has granted foreign companies concessions to seek oil, thus joining other countries in the Adriatic region that have oil platforms earlier.
The director of the Montenegrin Hydrocarbon Authority, Vladan Dubljevic, told DW that the concessionaires, the Italian-Russian consortium Eni-Novatek and the Greek company Energean, have so far performed the so-called 3D geophysical imaging of the submarine.
During that exploration, at least one geological formation was discovered in an offshore oil and gas field, and drilling will begin there.
"The first exploration well will be outside the territorial waters of Montenegro, about 22 kilometers from the coast," Dubljevic says.
Offshore oil and gas exploration is a precarious business that can generate enormous profits, but it may also be that oil is not found in sufficient quantities. So far, Eni and Novatek have invested as much as six million euros in the underwater shooting, and Energean 3.5 million. However, it is after the first geological structure is drilled that one will know the perspective of this whole story.
The search for oil and gas is also accompanied by protests by environmental organizations in all countries that reach the Adriatic Sea. In Montenegro, environmentalists also held a four-day protest march late last year, traversing the entire 300-km-long coastline. The goal, they said, was to alarm the public about the harmful effects of those investigations.
Mirsad Kurgas of the SOS for Montenegro network for DW claims that the entire job of searching for oil and gas is wrapped up in a body of secrecy. "Most of the documentation related to the oil and gas exploration has been declared a state secret. You have government institutions that have job descriptions that are not advertised, but even favorably viewed. For example, the Institute of Marine Biology, as the only scientific institution of its kind, was against it in 2003 when identical research was conducted. Now they support it, so they are one of the most responsible for this situation," Kurgas said.
He argues that other countries are slowly abandoning their search for oil in this way and recalls the catastrophic consequences of the oil spill in Patagonia this and the Gulf of Mexico eight years ago. He adds that Norway has decided to make a radical turn in this area this year and will give up oil mining.
"There is no example in the world that concessions are made as close to the coast as is the case here," Kurgas claims, recalling that Montenegro is susceptible to earthquakes and that offshore oil drilling would only intensify it.
On the other hand, Vladan Dubljevic says that there are as many as 1,500 exploratory wells in the Adriatic Sea, with the highest in Italy and Croatia and Albania.
Kurgas, however, points out that oil platforms have not benefited Italy. "Their northern submarine was killed, and in the south, they had to impose research restrictions," says an environmental activist. Kurgas insists that oil platforms will destroy Montenegrin tourism, otherwise the main economic branch in the country, because tourists will not want to swim on the beaches from which the platforms can be seen.
Dubljevic, however, points out that Montenegro is the only country on the Adriatic that has tourism and no oil industry, and that there are no problems in Italy, Croatia, and Albania. "In Greece, too, we have an example where the oil industry is successfully coexisting with tourism. Just five kilometers from Thassos Island, which is a well-known tourist destination, there has been an oil platform for almost 40 years," Dubljevic reminds.
He also reveals that any platforms in Montenegrin territorial waters will not even be installed for at least another three years, but they may not be installed at all. "Oil and gas production is not only done through platforms and is increasingly being used by so-called. factory-ships for the storage, manufacturing, and transshipment of oil and gas, as well as underground installations that are not even visible from the shore," explains Dubljevic.
Environmentalists also claim that this research is devastating not only to the wildlife but also to the general population. "We have no results on how this research has affected marine life in the sea. However, the experiences of our fishermen say that these surveys, the so-called seismic bombing, are very damaging because they break the food chain in the sea. By destroying small organisms in the sea, such as plankton and shrimp, you also destroy the food chain," warns Kurgas.
Dubljevic, on the other hand, cites the example of Norway, which is the fifth oil producer in the world, and its primary industry is fishing. "This shows that the oil industry can coexist with other industries. Although the risks of this type of research are minimal, all precautions have been taken. Environmental protection is our absolute priority," emphasizes Dubljevic.
He explains that during the survey, experts were present on the ships who monitored the environmental parameters, and the concessionaires are obliged to pay any potential damage, through insurance. "No research has been recorded to date that could indicate a negative impact of 3D imaging on marine biodiversity," concludes Dubljevic.
If oil and gas are found in the Montenegrin submarine, the state will ultimately take between 62 and 68 percent of net profits. The formation of an oil fund is also planned, modeled on Norway's most abundant in the world and serving as a cash reserve for future generations. The Norwegian fund hit a record high of $2 billion two years ago, controlling 1.3 percent of all stocks in the world.
The Montenegrin oil fund would flow most of the potential revenue from oil and gas production, up to 85 percent, and the money would, as in the case of Norway, be further "fertilized" by investing in stocks and saving.
"The goal is to ensure that, through the existence of the oil fund, the money from potential production of scarce resources such as oil and gas is available to future generations," Dubljevic said, adding that Montenegro does not yet have an estimate of how much it can earn annually.
Despite all this, environmentalists say they will continue to rebel. "We have a drastic silence on the system globally, as we have been talking about this since 2003, but no one is listening to us. The media do not often write about this, and even some NGOs have become silent. We will continue protests, and there is no giving up," says Kurgas.
The protesters also carry a pirate flag that sends a clear message: "If we are unable to resist lawlessness through the institutions of the system, then we are left with only alternative ways of fighting."
Source: Deutsche Welle