More than 300 earthquakes off the northern coast of Castellón have been recorded since late September. This appears to be related to the Castor project being carried out by the company Escal UGS consisting of an underground gas storage project 22 km off the coast. The earthquakes have all been less than 4.2 degrees on the Richter scale, but have aroused concern in the population of the area. Do we need this type of facilities in our country?
The Castor Project, with an investment of 1,200 million euros, aims to use an old oil well 1,750 meters below the sea level to supply up to a third of the system’s gas demand. However, these operations have been suspended due to increased earthquakes in the area. And according to Carlos Bravo from Salvia Association and former head of Greenpeace Energy Campaign, ” what happened is that an old oil well already empty was used to be refilled with gas but it is located in a geographical area filled with active faults, and just in the heart of the Amposta fault, and the necessary environmental impact studies have not been carried-out.”
The company Escal UGS, owned by Canadian ACS and CLP, however said that five years ago two seismographs were installed on the ground. These were installed following an agreement signed with the Ebro Observatory, to “monitor” the work on the plant, so they consider that these micro-earthquakes have nothing to do with the works on the plant. However, the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism last week ordered the temporary cessation of the activity to find out the causes of earthquakes.
Commitment to renewable
To Sergio de Otto, from the Renewable Energy Foundation, it all comes down to “the way humans make things complicated to produce energy. The earth already provides us 70 times the energy we need through the sun. Yet we remain committed to technologies that pose high risks to the population and furthermore in Spain we still establish policies that maintain our high dependence on foreign oil and gas. Nineteenth century solutions are still being applied to the twenty-first century. ”
This gas storage system uses techniques very similar to that of fracking, the hydraulic fracturing to extract gas, and the High Council of Mining Engineering Colleges support them, since as indicated in their latest report, “This technique incorporates the best available technologies and applies high levels of control, with the risks similar to those in any other processing or extractive industry, and in addition it creates jobs and wealth. ”
Carlos Bravo of Salvia has doubts on this technology primarily “because it is located in the Ebro Delta , and with the first cushion gas injections performed everything looks really bad. The logic thing would be to shut it down. Actually, what needs be done is to change the country ‘s energy policy, still too reliant on hydrocarbons, excessively supportive of fracking and torpedoing the development of renewables.”
The future of the Castor plant
Scientists at two public research organizations (Geo Mining Institute and National Geographical Institute) are analyzing the situation. The central government announced that it would wait for the completion of these two reports before deciding on the plant’s future. The Official College of Geologists believes that seismic activity is related with the Castor project. The Greens have already announced they will submit a complaint againt the Ministry and the consortium developing the Castor Project before the European Commission.
And in the midst of this controversy, the future of this facility is uncertain. Although the real concern is who will bear the costs and the large losses of a billion dollar investment project, will it be to the citizens to bear this again?