Ljubljana related

03 Jun 2020, 13:36 PM

STA, 3 June 2020 - The Administrative Court has upheld the decision of the Slovenian Environment Agency (ARSO) that an environmental impact assessment is needed before any permits can be issued for hydraulic fracturing planned by British company Ascent Resources at the Petišovci gas field in the north-east of Slovenia.

The London-based oil and gas exploration company, which is operating in Slovenia with its partner Geoenergo, announced the ruling on Tuesday.

It added that it is "in the process of beginning preparations for submission of an environmental impact assessment, alongside the stimulation and field development planning which was initiated recently".

ARSO said in March last year that the plans for hydraulic fracturing required an environmental impact assessment and this was confirmed in June last year by the Environment Ministry. Geoenergo therefore turned to the Administrative Court, which has upheld the decision.

"The court decision, along with earlier action by the state, will constitute important evidence to support the claim the company intends to bring against Slovenia under the Energy Charter Treaty," Ascent Resources added on Tuesday in a reference to plans to demand EUR 50 million in damages from Slovenia for delays in the development of the gas field.

Geoenergo, which is co-owned by the Slovenian state-controlled energy companies Petrol and Nafta Lendava and has been striving for the project together with Ascent Resources since May 2017, expressed on Wednesday regret over the court's decision.

It assessed that "an environmental impact assessment is not necessary for the planned intervention, one that has already been executed in past on several occasions in line with Slovenian legislation".

Geoenergo, which spoke of a key project "for the development of north-east Slovenia that would provide greater energy independence for Slovenia", added that the ruling would have negative consequences for "what are already unreasonably protracted administrative procedure that prevent the preservation of the existing production of gas".

Meanwhile, Ascent Resources announced for its investors last week that it would hold on to plans for the re-stimulation of its producing wells in Petišovci. It expects to obtain the necessary permits by the end of the year.

Ascent Resources moreover wrote that it has "observed the recent changes introduced by the new Slovenian government and increasingly confident position on the likelihood of the project receiving the permits required for further stimulation".

All our stories on Ascent Resources and Slovenia

14 Nov 2019, 09:29 AM

STA, 12 November 2019 - Several civil initiatives turned to the OECD over the plans of the British oil and gas exploration company Ascent Resources for hydraulic fracturing in eastern Slovenia. The move comes after the company announced it would demand damages from Slovenia for delays in obtaining a permit for the controversial gas extraction project.

The civil initiatives and organisations filed a complaint on Tuesday with the Slovenian and British national contact points for the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises, demanding that Ascent Resources fully adhere to the guidelines.

"Given the gravity of the potential harmful effects of hydraulic fracturing adhering to the guidelines could very well mean that Ascent Resources will have to stop these activities immediately," said Lidija Živčič of NGO Focus, one of the 17 participating organisations and initiatives.

They believe Ascent Resources has in many aspects not adhered to the guidelines on corporate social responsibility, especially when it comes to the contribution to sustainable development, as hydraulic fracturing has been found to have multiple negative effects on local environment, people's health and the climate.

According to the civil initiatives, Ascent Resources also violated those guidelines by avoiding the legal constraints and claiming that hydraulic fracturing would not affect the environment.

"Ascent Resources also violated OECD guidelines through inconsistent implementation of due diligence measures and measures to minimise risks, but also by not demanding corporate social responsibility from its affiliate and contractors in Slovenia."

The NGOs claim that this is the first case of a complaint to the national contact point of OECD in Slovenia. "We expect the OECD to recognise the gravity of the violations and demand from the company to strictly implement the guidelines even if that meant Ascent Resources has to stop its fracking activities in Slovenia," Živčič said.

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 wants to extract gas on a large scale in Petišovci in east Slovenia despite much controversy and problems in obtaining environmental permits.

The company announced this summer it would demand EUR 50 million in damages from Slovenia for delays in obtaining a permit to develop the Petišovci gas field.

It also plans to lodge an investment treaty arbitration claim under the Energy Charter Treaty.

It decided for the move after the Environment Ministry upheld a decision of the Environment Agency that an environmental impact assessment and a separate environmental permit are necessary before the project could start because the location of the gas wells was close to water sources and agricultural land.

All our stories on this case are here

23 Sep 2019, 07:00 AM

The long-running story of Ascent Resources and its attempts to get permission to use a form of hydraulic stimulation in its gas fields in Petišovci has taken another turn, one that may have more success for the UK firm. The company announced on Friday that it will now use conventional drilling techniques to extract more gas, taking “advantage of the newly reprocessed Petišovci 3-D seismic survey to appraise new conventional targets", in the words of CEO John Buggenhagen, who took over management a few months ago. The company is also appealing the decision that prevents the use of hydraulic stimulation.

Ascent Resources’ non-executive chairman Louis Castro is also quoted as saying: "Over the next six weeks or so -- together with our partner Geoenergo -- we will be evaluating and prioritising potential shallow conventional oil and gas targets and associated well site locations.”

All our stories on Ascent Resources can be found here

29 Aug 2019, 14:14 PM

STA, 29 August 2019 - The London-based oil and gas exploration company Ascent Resources will demand EUR 50 million in damages from Slovenia for delays in obtaining a permit to develop the Petišovci gas field in the north-east of the country, news portal Litigation Finance Journal reports.

As the British company said in a release on Tuesday, it is preparing "legal claims for damages against the persistent delays in permitting relating to the further development of the tight gas reservoirs in the Petišovci gas field".

Ascent also insists on its appeal against the decision of the Slovenian Environment Agency (ARSO) requiring an environmental impact assessment for the re-stimulation of its producing wells.

In March, ARSO decided that an environmental impact assessment will have to be made to establish whether gas extraction with hydraulic fracturing has no damaging effects on the environment.

"This is definitely a procedure which will change the physical reality of the environment," said ARSO's decision, which was also upheld by the Environment Ministry.

Ascent is also exploring possibilities to further develop the Petišovci gas field without hydraulic stimulation.

According to its press release, it is reprocessing the Petišovci 3D seismic survey acquired in 2008-2009.

It is currently interpreting preliminary data volumes in preparation for a full evaluation of the new seismic volumes, with the final data expected by mid-September.

Its CEO John Buggenhagen said the company planned to work with its partners in Slovenia to also increase production through new conventional drilling opportunities.

Ascent and its Slovenian partner Geoenergo are moreover working on documents to secure an extension of the concession for Petišovci, which is valid until 2022.

All our stories on this issue can be found here

29 Jul 2019, 18:48 PM

The UK’s Ascent Resources, often in the news in Slovenia for its long-running and so far less than successful attempts to exploit it’s Petišovci gas field with the use of hydraulic stimulation, has announced a series of cost-cutting measures and managerial changes. As reported by Morning Star, the moves are an attempt to cut costs by 50%, and are needed because of the delays to the Slovenian project. As the website notes:

In its Slovenian operations, Ascent said it will cut the number of its employees and halt "all non-essential expenditure", including its May order of compression equipment for the Pg-10 and Pg-11A wells.

The company is also changing its CEO, with Chief Operating Officer John Buggenhagen replacing Colin Hutchinson, who will stay with company on a part-time, interim basis as a finance director.

Also leaving the company's board is Cameron Davies, retiring as chair having been a company director since 2010.

The new CEO, a geophysicist who has been working in various capacities at Ascent since January of this year, said: “we continue to pursue an appeal against the Environment Ministry in Slovenia, in conjunction with our joint venture partner at Petišovci, and we are prepared to initiate legal action against the Republic of Slovenia, who we believe is in breach of European Union law.”

Shares in the company were down 12% at 0.26 pence each in London at the close of trading, Monday.

The full report can be seen here, while all our reporting on Ascent Resources is here.

17 Jul 2019, 10:34 AM

STA, 17 July 2019 - Ascent Resources, the UK developer of the Petišovci gas field in eastern Slovenia, has reportedly launched administrative dispute proceedings in Slovenia after it was ordered to get a separate permit for hydraulic fracturing.

The move, reported on Tuesday by the Stock Market Wire news portal, comes after the Environment Ministry upheld a decision of the Environment Agency (ARSO) on the controversial gas extraction project in Petišovci.

The ministry agreed that an environmental impact assessment and a separate environmental permit were necessary because the location of the gas wells was close to water sources and because underground waters and agricultural land in the area do not have very good ability to regenerate.

"The decision of ARSO and the Environment Ministry ignores the opinion of the six independent expert bodies whose advice ARSO sought," Ascent said.

The decision mistakenly concluded that the project fell within a conservation area and misapplied EU case law in relation to mitigation measures, Ascent also said as it announced multi-pronged legal action against Slovenia on 14 July, a day before the deadline for the Administrative Court appeal.

Aside from challenging the decision at the Administrative Court, Ascent plans to submit a claim for damages against the state for breach of EU law including for the unreasonably long time it took for the decision to be reached.

The company will seek damages for loss of future income from the project "which would have been expected to have been a multiple of the historic investment of some EUR 50 million."

It also plans to lodge an investment treaty arbitration claim under the Energy Charter Treaty.

All our stories on Ascent Resources are here

15 Jun 2019, 10:16 AM

STA, 14 June 2019 - Ascent Resources, the UK developer of the Petišovci gas field in eastern Slovenia, plans to take multi-pronged legal action against Slovenia after it was ordered to get a separate permit for hydraulic fracturing.

Ascent will submit a "robust response to this manifestly wrong decision contrary to EU law," the company said in a permitting update posted on the website www.investegate.co.uk on Friday.

The statement comes after the Environment Ministry upheld a decision of the Environment Agency on the controversial gas extraction project in Petišovci.

The ministry agreed that an environmental impact assessment and a separate environmental permit were necessary because the location of the gas wells was close to water sources and because underground waters and agricultural land in the area do not have very good ability to regenerate.

The decision mistakenly concluded that the project fell within a conservation area and misapplied EU case law in relation to mitigation measures, Ascent said.

Aside from challenging the decision at the Administrative Court, Ascent plans to submit a claim for damages against the state for breach of EU law including for the unreasonably long time it took for the decision to be reached.

The company will seek damages for loss of future income from the project "which would have been expected to have been a multiple of the historic investment of some EUR 50 million."

It also plans to lodge an investment treaty arbitration claim under the Energy Charter Treaty.

"It was the strong desire of the board to avoid such litigation and obtain the permits necessary to develop the field which it was legally entitled to. As it has now become apparent that the possibility of achieving these goals has significantly diminished, the company will move ahead with filing this claim," the statement reads.

As a result of these developments, the company's focus in Slovenia now "inevitably shifts away from the development of the Petišovci Project towards obtaining legal redress for the damages inflicted on shareholders by the actions of the government."

All our stories about this project are here

13 Jun 2019, 03:54 AM

STA, 12 June 2019 - The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning has confirmed the decision of the Environment Agency on the controversial gas extraction project in Petišovci (NE), thus rejecting an appeal by UK investor Ascent Resources. In line with the decision, a separate permit procedure will be needed for hydraulic fracturing.

The agency granted the investor the permit for a planned gas processing plant but demanded a separate environmental impact assessment to determine whether the UK company can step up extraction via hydraulic fracturing, which is crucial for the refinery that would be allowed to process 280,000 cubic metres of natural gas and a tonne of oil per day.

The March decision of the Environment Agency came after the original permit for the refinery, issued in 2015, had been successfully challenged by environmentalists.

The Ministry agrees with the agency that an environmental impact assessment and a separate environmental permit were necessary because the location was close to water sources and because underground waters and agricultural land in the area do not have very good ability to regenerate.

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 wants to extract gas on a large scale in Petišovci.

The separate permit procedure could further delay the implementation of the project in which more than EUR 50 million has allegedly been invested so far.

The UK company holds 75% interest in the project, Geoenergo's concession for the Petišovce gas however expires in 2022.

Hydrocarbon extraction in Petišovci started in 1943 and boomed in the 1980s. But after the oil refinery there was closed, the activity slowly died down.

Last December, Ascent Resources stepped up pressure on Slovenia to issue the environmental permit for its project by threatening to sue the government for damages.

This was after the then Environment Minister Jure Leben ordered an internal inquiry at the Environment Agency to see "whether inappropriate pressure has been exerted on employees" in relation to two Petišovci-related procedures.

The inquiry showed that there had been pressure and threats in both procedures and that the autonomy and independence of the decision-making authority had been violated. The findings prompted Joško Knez to resign as the agency's director.

All our stories on this project are here

30 May 2019, 16:04 PM

Ascent Resources recently signed a contract to by a mobile compressor unit for use at its Petišovci gas field, reports the website Oil Field Technology, with the unit set to be installed in the fourth quarter of this year. The technology will enable the British company to restimulate at least two of its wells, thus increasing production, with it’s use at other well in the field also a possibility.

Other stories about Ascent Resources can be found here.

25 Apr 2019, 19:42 PM

The UK’s Ascent Resources PLC, often in the news in Slovenia for its attempts to increase production at its Petišovci gas field, issued 214.3 million shares earlier this week at £0.0035 (0.35 pence) per share, with the offer bought by a small number of institutional investors. A fell by over 20% after the share issue from the company says the funds raised are intended to reprocess 3D seismic data in relation to the Slovenian project, as well was as to pay for compression equipment, evaluate other regional opportunities and provide additional working capital.

While the company’s shares started the month at 0.20 pence, and jumped to 0.70 pence on April 8, with news that it had received a new permit from ARSOS, the Slovenian Environment Agency, they fell by over 20% after the share issue, and – at the time of writing – stand at 0.40 pence. The shares reached an all-time high of £5.85 in August 2007.

The Petišovci project has been the subject of some controversy and heated online debate, with some investors in the company alleging in correspondence with TSN that corruption at the highest levels of the Slovenian government has prevented the firm from developing its holdings there.

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