Authorities suspend Bankers Petroleum’s activity following well blast that forced village evacuation

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 3, 2015 09:04

Authorities suspend Bankers Petroleum’s activity following well blast that forced village evacuation

The Fier Prosecutor’s Office has launched a probe into Bankers Petroleum after the national inspectorate announced it had suspended the company’s environmental permit a month ago and the company had illegally continued its activity

TIRANA, April 1 – Canada-based Bankers Petroleum, which operates the Patos-Marinza heavy oilfield in south-western Albania and is the country’s largest foreign investor, has had its activity suspended after a blast incident at two of its oil wells, endangering local residents.

Some 60 local households were evacuated after the explosion of the two oil wells in the Marinze village, with nobody reported injured.

Video footage showed fountains of gas, mud, sand and water coming out of the ground.

Energy Minister Damian Gjiknuri who visited the explosion site on Wednesday assured the situation was under control and there was no room for panic.

“Experts say the gas leak is not poisonous and cannot cause explosions,” said Gjiknuri, asking the company to cover costs of damages.

A company spokesman told the Reuters news agency that Bankers usually has to drill down to 1,300 meters to reach oil layers in Patos-Marinza, but Wednesday’s well had been drilled to just 500 meters when the venting occurred.

Bankers Petroleum said it has activated its emergency response plan as a result of an uncontrolled carbon dioxide release during the drilling of a horizontal well within the Patos-Marinza oilfield,

“Bankers has regained surface control of drilling operations, returning most impacted residents to their homes, however, as a precautionary measure, continues to maintain a small evacuation area immediately adjacent to the affected well,” the company said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Fier Prosecutor’s Office has launched a probe into Bankers Petroleum after the national inspectorate announced it had suspended the company’s environmental permit a month ago and the company had illegally continued its activity. Prosecutors are investigating whether Bankers used inappropriate drilling methods and techniques.

The Environment Ministry had suspended Bankers activity since late February 2015 after the environment inspectorate identified violations in waste management, pollution of water resources also affecting agricultural products and social and health problems caused to local residents.  The ministry says Bankers will have its suspension lifted only after it meets the environmental requirements.

Canada-based Bankers Petroleu posted record high profits of around $129 million in 2014, more than double compared to 2013, on higher oil production despite a significant cut in international oil prices in the second half of the year. Meanwhile, royalties to the Albanian government and related entities were $86 million (15 percent of revenue) during 2014 compared to $94 million (17 percent of revenue) for 2013.

Bankers Petroleum 2015 prospects are less optimistic as international oil prices have more than halved to around $54 a barrel since their peak level in mid-2014, forcing the company to revise downward its 2015 program of investments and production.

In early February 2015, Bankers announced it had reduced its 2015 capital program to US$ 153 million, down from a previously announced 2015 capital program of $218 million in early December 2014.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 3, 2015 09:04