Last Update: 09 September 2012

Saying NO to Oil

HEPCA is spearheading a high profile campaign to prevent oil companies from drilling for oil in the Red Sea. Presently, oil companies are being granted permission to conduct survies of areas located within the boundaries of protected areas. These areas boast some of the finest marine life and coral reefs in the Red Sea, and is home to many endemic species.

The reductions in subsidies for petroleum product consumption made the demand for petroleum products relatively flat since 1999. Moreover, the productivity of the traditional oil fields in the Gulf of Suez -the oldest in the Middle East- still account for about 50% of the Egyptian oil production, has declined sharply as the most easily extracted oil has run dry.  Figures show a rapid growth between 1995 and 1998, with a peak in 1996, followed by a constant drop.  Oil majors (notably BP) have invested billions in the last decade to squeeze more out of what resources remain, using new technology.

Egypt is currently operating more than 180 oil platforms in the Gulf of Suez which, according to the 2010 BP Statistical Energy Survey, at the end of 2009 provided 0.33% of world’s reserves, accounting for 0.92% of the world total production of crude oil per day.

Law No 102 of 1983 for Nature Protectorates and National Parks defines a natural protectorate as any area of land, coastal or inland water characterized by flora, fauna and natural features having cultural, scientific, aesthetic or tourist value, designated by the Prime Minister upon recommendation by the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA). Under this law, commercial actions or activities that can harm the natural environment are strictly forbidden, including any action possibly causing pollution and damage to the marine life and natural features of the area.

HEPCA has started a major lobbying campaign and is taking all possible legal procedures and actions – locally and internationally – to prevent a British oil company, Burren Energy (Egypt) Ltd, drilling for oil in the Red Sea. The company was granted a concession by the Ministry of Petroleum covering 242Km2 of waters north of Hurgada bordering  two island protectorates and Shadwan Island.  Law No. 102 of 1983 for Nature Protectorates and National Parks defines a natural protectorate as any area of land, coastal or inland water characterized by flora, fauna and natural features having cultural, scientific, aesthetic or touristic value, designated by the Prime Minister upon recommendation by the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA). Under this law, commercial actions or activities that can harm the natural environment are strictly forbidden, including any action possibly causing pollution and damage to the marine life and natural features of the area.  

In 2006, two major oil spills occurred in the Red Sea and inside the Suez Canal at Bitter Lake. In May 2009, again, more than two-thirds of a mile of sandy beach north of Hurghada were covered with crude oil.
Apparently smaller spills occur almost monthly. “The marine life is non-existent due to the almost constant leakage from the antiquated equipment used by oil companies, including such giants as British Petroleum (BP), and ExxonMobil.”, declared Mahmoud Ismail, the head of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) in 2009.

In June and July 2010, HEPCA came into the limelight by publicly denouncing the occurrence of a spill initially covered up: fishermen reported to HEPCA the presence of oil in the sea on 18th June 2010, while the leak is supposed to have started at least two days earlier from an oil rig approximately fifty nautical miles north of Hurghada.  None official declaration nor notification were released.  Around 30Km of coastline between Hurghada and El Gouna were invested, with temporary disruptions of the tourist activities. The valiant efforts of the local community –including fishermen, dive operators and hotels- and the Governorate (which committed all its resources in manual cleanups) must be commended.  Within five days over 90% of the impacted beaches on the mainland were entirely cleaned. Unfortunately, the Northern Islands protected area was the most heavily impacted region, and we are still fervently awaiting the Nature Conservation Sector’s assessment of the damages to draw a conclusion on the actual consequences of this spill.  Moreover, the lack of transparency in the management of this event brought the Egyptian Parliament to open interrogation.

Resources

Video

Egypt oil environment

Interview with HEPCA Managing Director Amr Ali about Oil companies wanting to drill oil in Red Sea National Park waters and with Burren Energy Ltd, the company, who wants to drill

( 7.66 MB )
PDF

Environmentalists demand halt of potential oil drilling project on Red Sea Coast

Daily News Egypt article about an intended project by a British oil company on the Red Sea coast

( 80.96 KB )
PDF

Egyptian oil dispute

Divernet article about HEPCA fighting against the oil company, who tries to drill oil in national park waters

( 129.54 KB )