In January 2015, the Spanish oil exploration company, Repsol, decided to abandon its search for oil near the coast of the Canary Islands after its survey of the area known as Watermelon gave negative results for the commercial exploitation of oil. These authorised surveys in Spanish territorial waters by the Ministry of Energy provoked severe protests from Canary Island residents, local residents’ organisations and environmental groups, who were concerned about the pollution impact that any oil spill could have on tourist destinations in the Canary Islands.
This controversy over the drilling for oil near the Canarian coastlines appeared to have been laid to rest until this week, when it was announced that Morocco has already granted a permit to the Italian oil exploration company ENI to search for oil and gas sources in the area close to the one previously considered by Repsol. This coastal area focuses on a strip of seabed off the coast of Tarfaya and the seabed border dividing line that separates the area under the jurisdiction of Morocco and the Canary Islands maritime space under the jurisdiction of Spain.
This press release from ENI explains that on 20 December 2017 this Italian company signed an oil exploration agreement with the Moroccan state company ONHYM to search the seabed area locally known as Tarfaya Offshore Shallow, which includes the lower left part of this region off the coastline of the Canary Islands.
The company specifies that this maritime area of 23,900 km2 is located off the coast of Sidi Ifni, Tan Tan and Tarfaya, and the published plan shows that this is the area adjacent to the that which Repsol explored in 2014 with a Spanish licence in front of the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. ENI states that it has expectations of finding liquid hydrocarbons which could include oil and gas when drilling the seabed in this region of up to depths of 1000 metres.
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