Shell Group Forced to Postpone Oil Drilling in Guyana

Le Monde describes the latest action by Guyana’s government as a “theatrical coup.” Guyana stopped Shell’s proposed series of four exploratory drilling sessions 150 miles off the coast, because although they thought they had a permit from maritime Guyana, France’s Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Nicole Bricq said that “the company does not currently have all the necessary permits to start operations.” The company’s oil-based mud drilling techniques pose a threat to Guyana’s deep-sea environment and may harm wildlife such as turtles, whales and seabirds, as well as the surrounding mangroves.

The move came as the ministry said it was preparing an in-depth look at how oil and gas drilling permits are agreed. After the on-off saga of the permits for shale gas exploration in mainland France, Ecology Minister Nicole Bricq said it was “vital to reexamine the situation left by the previous government.” She said that she and Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg had agreed that Shell’s exploration plans – the original permit was agreed in 2001 and has been extended without work starting three times – should be put on hold, as it had not taken enough account of possible environmental problems.

Part of Bricq’s intention, she said, was to look at the Code Minier, the rules that govern underground exploration which date from 1810 and which were denounced during the shale gas protests as out of date. While a senator (for Seine-et-Marne, Ile-de-France) in the previous parliament, she had called on President Sarkozy for an urgent reform of the code before any new fossil fuel exploration was authorized. “No way can they force the new government’s arm by continuing to sacrifice the environment,” insists the Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development.

President of Shell France Patrick Roméo has expressed amazement. He says “I have no information. While I can understand the concern of government, this decision is not adapted to our particular case. Our case was already investigated and almost ready. Moreover we have informed and consulted the public well beyond the current legislative framework.” For him it is a negative sign for the entire oil industry. The development of Guyanese oil basin Zaedyus, at a depth of 6000 meters, could reach 300 million barrels: “An opportunity for France to reduce its imports of ‘black gold,’ and a boon to Guyana, where unemployment is very high,” says Roméo. The cost of the project, from exploration to development, has been estimated at between 5 and 10 billion dollars (4 to 8 billion euros).

For original article (in French), see

For article in English, see

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