Ljubljana related

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.

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.

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