STA, 9 April 2019 - The environmental NGO Alpe Adria Green (AAG) announced it would not file an appeal against the environmental permit for a gas processing plant in Petišovci (NE). It had already said it would be hard to challenge it since the investor has been insisting it did not entail a stepping up of extraction via hydraulic fracturing.
The permit by the Environment Agency (ARSO), which was reportedly issued at the end of March, comes after the original permit for the refinery, issued in 2015, had been successfully challenged by environmentalists.
The AAG said in Tuesday's press release there would be no appeal as the permit covered only the refinery for raw natural gas, and was related to a modernisation of the existing facility under best available technology (BAT) aimed at reducing the environmental impact.
The NGO explained that the original application the UK investor Ascent Resources had sent to ARSO also covered the controversial technology of hydraulic fracturing, which the AAG believes would bring "catastrophic consequences for the local environment, like in the US".
What will be key as regards the refinery, which would be allowed to process 280,000 cubic metres of natural gas and a tonne of oil per day, is the ongoing environmental impact assessment determining whether the UK company can step up extraction via hydraulic fracturing.
ARSO made the decision that a separate permit procedure for hydraulic fracturing was necessary in March and is being challenged by Ascent Resources, which is also threatening to sue the government for damages.
Operating in a joint venture with Geoenergo, which is co-owned by the Slovenian state-controlled energy companies Petrol and Nafta Lendava, the UK company claims it has invested more than EUR 50m in the project so far. It holds 75% interest in the project, Geoenergo's concession for the Petišovci gas however expires in 2022.
Geoenergo told the STA that the permit meant that only one of the conditions had been met for the old infrastructure to be replaced with a new one to enable the refining of gas, which would be pumped into the national gas network.
Natural gas at the site is currently being extracted at the rate of 25,000 cubic metres a day, the company said, adding that the environmental procedures were under way for renewed stimulation of the existing well.
"When the administrative procedures for the existing wells get finalised, we will not exceed the capacity of the existing infrastructure. Our long-term goal is to cover around 10% of Slovenia's needs for natural gas."
Ascent Resources meanwhile said that the value of its shares had doubled since Monday, when it received the permit from ARSO. It added that Petišovci was a small plant, from which the entire production would go into the Slovenian network.
Executive director Colin Hutchinson stressed that the company still expected a permit for the entire project, including hydraulic fracturing, which according to Ascent Resources does not pose a major risk to the environment.
Total output at the location last month was 334,410 cubic metres for EUR 44,095 in revenue, while in 311,443 cubic metres were extracted in February (EUR 44,513), the company added.
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