[Published in El Mundo]
By Carlos Segovia
George M. Yates, current president of Heyco Energy and member of the National Petroleum Council that advises the US Department of Energy, says that he, already in his seventies, has seen how things can change quickly if governments facilitate them. “During my life I have seen how the industry was able to turn a shortage of natural gas into a surplus in just 18 months. Prices would be much higher, and many places that are growing would be in recession. The world owes a debt of gratitude to the energy industry », he declared.
In a decade, the US has gone from not even being among the top ten gas producers in the world to being the leader and largest exporter. Also without great social rejection, because it has ensured benefits to the owners of land where gas has been explored.
That is why Yates, a third-generation family businessman in the oil and gas business, does not leave his astonishment in his commitment to Spain. He has known for more than a decade that there are huge gas deposits on the peninsula that would significantly cushion his dependence on Algeria or methane tankers from Qatar, Nigeria or even the US, but he has not found the political will to take advantage of it. char that energy. “We are still very interested and the current scenario advises rethinking this challenge,” they say at Heyco Energy.
The last straw was article 9 of the so-called Law 7/2021, of May 20, on climate change and energy transition. It is the one that prohibits granting “in the national territory, including the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf, new exploration authorizations, hydrocarbon research permits or exploitation concessions for them.” Forbidden even to investigate. The millions of cubic meters of gas that have been underground in the peninsula for thousands of years will continue to be there if this article is not modified.
And is there really gas? According to a study by the consulting firm Gessla for the sector association in 2013, the “central scenario is that 2,500 lie! bcm of natural gas. These are prospective resources and not proven reserves in the absence of development of exploratory projects, but even half of that figure would be dizzying. Spain buys 10 bcm a year from Algeria and its annual consumption exceeds 30.
In addition, another Deloitte report from 2014 points out that the exploitation of these resources in Spain would contribute annually up to 4% to the Gross Domestic Product, close to 44,000 million.
It would be unfair to say that the third vice president behind the Law, Teresa Ribera, is a unique case in the EU. The renunciation of new gas and oil deposits on European soil is very generalized, due to the broad ecological protest and fears of seismic movements. But in other governments a reflection is beginning after the successful experience of the US and the Russian aggression against Ukraine. The German Finance Minister and liberal leader in the government coalition advocates reconsidering the ban on new prospecting in the North Sea. “We have to question this coalition government agreement,” he told Reuters last Sunday. Lindner is clear that, at least during the energy transition, the EU will continue to need gas and oil for decades. The British Government is also reviewing the ban on fracking to extract gas in the face of the new geostrategic panorama.
And in Spain? From his Heyco Energy headquarters in New Mexico, Yates always asks with astonishment about the project in Spain that the socialist Patxi López forged as lehendakari and that he still maintains in association with the Basque Energy Entity, since he is sure of a large deposit of gas in Alava. However, the answer is always negative. That the permits obtained are no longer possible with the Ribera Law. In the last decade there has been a great response from environmental movements to the fracking technique, but in Heyco they assure that fracturing is one more tool, not the only one, and that technology has improved in such a way that many prejudices should be reviewed about. A study by Azentúa maintains that “the local production of natural gas in Spain would avoid 60% of greenhouse gas emissions when compared to gas coming from Algeria through a gas pipeline and 84% when compared to gas coming from the American continent in methane tankers». But the door is closed for now.
Neither could I with the Repsol Law in force, if rés, try again to prospect for oil in the Canary Islands, also highly reviled by environmentalists. The president of Repsol, Antonio Brufau, once again positioned himself on the 7th against the current energy strategy focused on electrification by inaugurating the construction of an advanced biofuels plant in Cartagena
(Murcia). «All solutions must be welcomed, without being exclusive with any (…) It is not realistic to think that, with such a complex challenge, in such a changing world, the solution will come from a single technology or source of energy, such as electricity.
For Brufau “it is not about punishing or prohibiting, but about creating incentives to continuously develop innovative ideas that can encourage consumers and manufacturers to choose the most efficient and sustainable route”. A proof of revisionism is that the EU also makes room for nuclear energy and gas in the transition. All this while of course the crucial renewable energies are accelerating. It is logical to ask Yates and his sector to certify quality and maximum respect for the environment, but what the German liberal minister says sounds sensible:
“Faced with this geopolitical change, we must completely review the energy strategy without dogmas.”