Ljubljana related

10 Apr 2019, 15:53 PM

STA, 10 April 2018 - Hunger for energy resources is almost as old as humankind, but the reasons behind it vary. The first to drill holes in the north-east Slovenia was the German army, and now the efforts to extract gas are driven by greed and the desire to make quick profit, says Delo in Wednesday's front-page commentary.

 

Quick profit is what British investors were promising to all those who wanted to invest in the project of exploiting the reserves of gas and some oil in the south-eastern-most part of the country.

They want to drill another 12 or 24 holes and use hydraulic fracturing to extract the gas and oil.

But people are distrustful. They used to have free gas and jobs, but now foreign investors came who only want profit.

They are using all means available to get what they want, including an agency to persuade the public and decision-makers, the British ambassador and a campaign and threats on social media.

Because of appeals, the procedure at the Environment Agency is slow. The agency has issued a permit for a planned gas processing plant, which will not be built anyway, but not yet a permit for hydraulic fracturing, which people oppose.

"The people have the feeling that the area along the Mura river cannot be seen very well from Ljubljana. Indeed, when it rained heavily in the capital, the area bathed in the sun."

People in Ljubljana are making plans to build dams on Mura and are stepping up pressure to exploit the natural resources in the area, although the people there want a green development.

"The gas that is coming out of the holes on its own is enough, the rest is just greed," Delo says in the commentary entitled ‘Gas for the Profit of a Handful’.

All our stories on hydraulic stimulation in Slovenia are here

09 Apr 2019, 16:54 PM

NOTE: This story is published as received from STA, but Ascent Resources disputes the term “hydraulic fracturing”, aka fracking, and prefers “low volume hydraulic stimulation”

 

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.

All our stories on this project can be found here

08 Apr 2019, 12:41 PM

STA, 8 April 2019 - In the latest development in the controversial gas extraction project in Petišovci (NE), UK investor Ascent Resources has obtained the permit for a planned gas processing plant. However, according to Delo, things are not looking good for the investor in the separate permit procedure for hydraulic fracturing.

The decision by the Environment Agency (ARSO), which the paper says was issued on 28 March, comes after the original permit for the refinery, issued in 2015, had been successfully challenged by environmentalists.

However, key for the refinery, which would be allowed to process 280,000 cubic metres of natural gas and a tonne of oil per day, will be the ongoing environmental impact assessment determining whether the UK company can step up extraction via hydraulic fracturing.

The refinery permit is still subject to a potential appeal by Alpe Adria Green, but the NGO's president Vojko Bernard told Delo it would be hard to challenge it, since the investor has been insisting the refinery did not entail a stepping up of extraction via hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

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 Petišovce gas however expires in 2022.

All our stories on Ascent Resources can be found here

13 Mar 2019, 16:00 PM

STA, 12 March 2019 - The UK-based company Ascent Resources has announced it will appeal against the Slovenian Environment Agency's decision that it will have to seek an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for its gas extraction project in the far north-east of the country.

 

"The partners plan to appeal the decision within the prescribed 15-day period," the UK company has said as quoted by Your Oil and Gas News portal.

The key ground for appeal will be that all six expert government agencies which the agency is required to consult as part of the screening assessment process concluded that no EIA should be required on the basis that the project to re-stimulate two currently producing wells was not likely to have significant effects on the environment.

The Slovenian Environment Agency (ARSO) failed to follow the findings even though bound to so, having not undertaken any independent assessment of the likely impacts of the environment, Ascent Resources said in the post.

Ascent Resources has been extracting and selling untreated natural gas from the Petišovci field in cooperation with its Slovenian partner Geoenergo, but the partners have been unable to get permits for hydraulic fracturing and for a new gas processing plant due to repeated appeals by environmentalists.

The company said that the partners had applied for the screening assessment in May 2017, so they also plan to challenge ARSO's latest decision for not being issued within the two-month period prescribed by Slovenian law. "The failure to comply with other provisions of Slovenian law as well as breaches of EU law will be detailed in the appeal."

Related: Ascent Resources CEO - Company May Sue Slovenian Government Over Fracking Permits (Video Interview)

Meanwhile, Ascent Resources welcomed ARSO acknowledging that the proposed project cannot be regarded as "fracking" as defined by the European Commission in its recommendation in 2014.

Ascent Resources has been working with legal experts in Slovenia and London to prepare claims for damages as "a result of the numerous and continued failures and delays by ARSO and the ministry to comply with Slovenian and EU law".

It said that "any potential claim for damages will take into account the amount invested by Ascent in the project, currently in excess of EUR 50m, and future expected profits from the development of the field which is estimated to be a multiple of the existing investment".

Related: PM Surprised By Hunt Lobbying for UK Fracking Company: “In Slovenia We Operate in Line with the Law”

08 Mar 2019, 20:00 PM

STA, 8 March 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec told the weekly Mladina that UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had raised the issue of a UK company's gas extraction project in the north-east of Slovenia during their talks in Ljubljana at the end of February. Šarec said he found the manner of inquiry unusual.

The fracking attempts in the Petišovci area were stopped by former Environment Minister Jure Leben after UK company Ascent Resources had been pressuring the country to issue an environmental permit and even threatening with a lawsuit before an EU court.

Several environmental NGOs and parties had also accused UK Ambassador Sophie Honey of lobbying and putting pressure on Slovenian authorities to secure the permit for fracking.

Šarec said in an interview with Mladina that the case had come up in the talks with Hunt in Ljubljana on 21 February.

Asked whether Hunt had lobbied during the talks, Šarec replied in the affirmative. "Yes, his questions regarding this case were, I must say, unusual.

"I believe that such talks do not become a foreign secretary, because it makes the whole thing resemble horse-trading."

Šarec said he had told Hunt that "in Slovenia we operate in line with the law."

"I'd like to point out that the permit for fracking is not a matter of a favourable political stance toward this or other party but a matter of legislation.

"I am also personally convinced that these procedures for extracting oil or gas undoubtedly entail certain environmental risks."

Šarec also noted that lobbying was usually reported to the Commission for Corruption Prevention but it this case this was not necessary, because he had publicly spoken about it now.

All our stories about fracking in Slovenia can be found here, while all our stories about Jeremy Hunt are here

27 Feb 2019, 16:32 PM

February 27, 2019

In an article by Siol, published today and titled “He talked about ‘Soviet vassals’ and lobbied for ‘fracking’ in Pomurje” (Govoril o "sovjetskih vazalih", lobiral pa za "fracking" v Pomurju), the authors claim that one of the main reasons behind the British Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt’s visit to Slovenia last week was to lobby for environmental permits for the ecologically controversial gas extraction in Pomurje.

Although most of the Slovene public remembers Mr Hunt’s visit last week for his patronising appraisal of Slovenia’s progress from a “Soviet vassal state” to an EU and NATO member, little has so far been said about the alleged other purpose of his visit, nor the topics of discussion with his Slovenian counterpart, the Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, beyond Brexit-related matters.

Hunt brought up environmental permits for “fracking” at Petišovci

However, the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed to Siol.net that the Petišovci project was one of the topics discussed during the visit. Siol quotes the Ministry’s response to their inquiry as follows:

"The Foreign Minister also addressed investment cooperation, including the investment of the British company Ascent Resources in Petišovci. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, Miro Cerar, explained that the procedures in this case are in line with Slovenian legislation, in accordance with the prescribed high environmental standards.”

According to information Siol claims to have obtained from diplomatic circles, the Petišovci project was one of the priority topics in Hunt’s meeting with Cerar. Furthermore, Ascent Resources CEO Colin Hutchinson was also in Slovenia last week, albeit only meeting with partners on the project. Hutchinson emphasised that he did not meet with the British Ambassador on this trip, and has never met Jeremy Hunt.

Environmental permits for “fracking” at Petišovci

ARSO (Agencija Republike Slovenije za okolje, the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning) is currently deciding on two environmental permits applied for by Ascent Resources and a local partner and minority shareholder Geoenergo: a permit that would allow for the operation of a gas processing plant, and another to boost production of the two existing wells by the method of “hydraulic stimulation”.

Although ARSO refused to comment on the possible results, Siol reports that based on unofficial information it will order the applicant to carry out an environmental assessment, which in turn means that no “fracking” permits will be granted for now.

Meanwhile Leben offers his resignation to PM Šarec

Hunt’s visit coincided with what Siol termed a “media war” against Jure Leben due to controversial second-rail model public procurement when he still served as a state secretary at the Ministry of Infrastructure of the previous government. Jure Leben offered his resignation to the Prime Minister Marjan Šarec yesterday. The news of his departure has been met with approval on social media by Ascent Resources shareholders, who have seen Mr. Leben as one of the main obstacles for gas extraction in Petišovci.

Siol also claims that the British Ambassador, Sophie Honey, met with Mr Leben last year to discuss the issue, a meeting that the report says ended with “raised voices”. Leben then made a report to the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (Komisiji za preprečevanje korupcije), while the British Embassy in Ljubljana issued a strong denial that it had attempted to influence the decision of the Slovenian authorities.

All our stories on fracking in Slovenia can be found here.

05 Feb 2019, 16:20 PM

Ascent Resources’ quest to gain the permits needed to develop its Petišovci gas field continues, reports the investment website Morning Star, with the threat of legal action against Slovenia if the delays continue. The company requires one permit to install a gas processing facility, while another is needed to re-stimulate wells to increase their production, a process commonly known as fracking.

CEO Colin Hutchinson was quoted on Monday as follows: "While the pace of progress in Slovenia remains frustratingly slow, as we continue to follow the process and provide those responsible for making the permitting decision with all of the information they require, based on the unarguable benefits for the country I remain hopeful the permits will be awarded in due course."

ascent resources screenshot slovenia.JPG

Some of the messages sent in support of Ascent Resources. Screenshot from RTV Slovenia

The project has been in the news in recent months because of the environmental concerns it raises, but also because of a number of harassing messages that were sent to government officials in Slovenia, including the Minister of Environment. While the author(s) of the messages have not been identified, all expressed support for Ascent Resources.

Although new developments are stalled production at the site is continuing, and the website notes that in January the firm was able to extract 412,763 cubic metres of gas, for expected revenues of about €70,000, down slightly from the figures seen in December.

Ascent Resources is a penny stock, currently trading at 0.28p, or £0.0028

15 Jan 2019, 11:50 AM

Ascent Resources, the UK-based firm engaged in a long-running attempt to begin fracking at Petišovci, a plan that has been delayed due to a lack of permits, said on Monday that it’s now looking to develop other projects outside Slovenia.

A report published on the London South East website, sets out how the company is still waiting on permits to re-stimulate it’s existing wells to produce more gas from the field, and install a processing facility to enable the natural gas it produces to enter the Slovenian national grid.

The story became more heated in late 2018, with accusations that Ascent Resources shareholders, or other interested parties, had been sending threatening messages to the Slovenian Environment Agency, as reported here, as well as threats by the company to sue the Slovene government for damages.

While Ascent Resources claims to be hopeful that that it will receive the permits needed to continue the Petišovci project, it is now looking beyond Slovenia and to other locations in the region with a more developed oil and gas infrastructure, working petroleum system and an established regulatory and legal framework.

The firm’s Chief Executive, Colin Hutchinson, is quoted as saying "While the Petišovci project remains a potentially very valuable asset, I am pleased that we now have a way forward that is not entirely based on Slovenia and the award of permits.”

At the time of writing the shares of Ascent Resources (AST) were trading at 0.32 pence in London, down from 1.40 pence a year ago.

20 Dec 2018, 16:00 PM

Ascent Resources, the UK-based firm involved in a four-year and sometimes heated dispute over permits for a fracking and gas-processing plant in Petišovci, Prekmurje, is about to raise the stakes with the threat of legal action against the Slovenian government. One recent issue in the case was a number of abusive emails that were sent by people claiming to be Ascent Resources investors to ARSO and the Environment Minister, a matter that is now receiving police attention in Slovenia.

Related: Slovenia’s environment vs foreign capital, corrupt officials and internet trolls

Speaking to London South East, CEO Colin Hutchinson said that while Slovenia remained a high risk environment for foreign investors he was hopeful that the two permits needed for the project to go ahead would eventually be granted by the Slovenian Environment Agency (Agencija Republike Slovenije za okolje, ARSO).

You can see London South East’s interview with Mr Hutchinson below in which he discusses the emails, fracking, the possible legal action the firm may take, and his hopes for the future

Related: Investors claim fracking in Prekmurje would benefit Slovenian gas consumers

14 Dec 2018, 10:23 AM

STA, 13 December 2018 - Natural gas will be a major part of energy supply in Slovenia in the future and domestic production would greatly increase the reliability of supply, heard participants of a Thursday's event dedicated to energy.

Noting that natural gas plays a generally positive role in the EU's energy transition to meet climate goals, Jurij Vertačnik of the Ministry of Infrastructure said that establishing competitive domestic production would be positive for the country, which currently relies almost exclusively on gas imports.

It is however true that the required infrastructure will have to be adapted for other energy sources in the future, which entails certain technical as well as regulatory challenges, he acknowledged.

Petišovci gas well a missed opportunity

There is a gas well at the Petišovci field in the north-east of the country, but its potential is not utilised, said Miha Valentinčič, the head of Geoenergo, the Slovenian partner of UK's Ascent Resources which is exploring the gas field.

According to him, there has been a lot of intentional deception with regards to the project since 2011 that has slowed down the project.

"We're trying to conclude as soon as possible the procedures that are under way, including obtaining the necessary permits to maintain current production and to connect to the Slovenian network," he said.

Part of the gas pumped out at the Petišovci field is sold to local industrial partners and the rest to Croatian energy company INA, which built a connection to the nearby Zebanec gas field last year.

Related: Slovenia's Environment vs British Capital, Corrupt Officials and Internet Trolls

The UK firm has been trying to get the permits for some time now and has been in conflict with the Slovenian authorities because of a review of the procedure to obtain the permit to use hydraulic stimulation at the Petišovci field.

According to Miloš Markič of the Geological Survey, low-volume and high-volume fracturing should be distinguished, with the former allowed in most countries and the latter prohibited in Europe due to the population density.

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