More on Hagar Qim-oil exploration saga

Source: George M. Mangion¸ PKFMalta

As published in the Malta Independet on the 9th September 2012

Do a vox pop in the streets of Valletta and ask people about the prospects for oil exploration here and the answer will surely be that it is a foregone conclusion that no oil exists on our continental shelf. The majority will refer to the many attempts in the past 50 years that have failed to locate oil in any commercial quantities¸ while some may recall Mintoff’s chagrin when¸ as prime minister in the 1970s¸ he faced Libyan gunboats to stop us from drilling on the disputed Medina Bank. So¸ yes¸ the prospect of oil is now a taboo subject¸ best left for tricksters or spin doctors who bring it  up prior to each election.  Just recall the national frustration caused by a dry well nicknamed ‘Madonna taz Zejt’ in Gozo¸ about which the Nationalists had based so much hope to the party faithful¸ only for that hope to be mercilessly dashed. A high level of cynicism clouds the subject but¸ according to geologist Peter Gatt¸ the issue needs to be scientifically assessed in the light of new facts and improved drilling technology. Quoted in another section of the media¸ Dr Gatt said: “There is no reason to believe that Malta doesn’t have its own oil reserves. In fact¸ the indications I have seen suggest the opposite.” Perhaps this is due to the recent study of 3D Seismic reports which yielded what he  describes as “definite hydro-carbon indicators”¸ mostly in the form of gas emissions.  “In the rest of the world¸ such indicators would be interpreted as signalling a high probability of an underlying oil or gas field¸” he said. “Strangely¸ however¸ in Malta the same indicators were interpreted in the opposite way¸ ie as an explanation for Malta’s failure to find oil.”  So where do we go from here.

With an approaching election¸ the subject will definitely not impress our politicians¸ but one would hope that a fresh impetus will be given to it in the 2013 budget. So  far¸ there has been no mention of the dreaded issue¸ for the reasons given earlier. One can understand the inertia on part of the Government not to be seen broaching the subject. Many experts in the international press would argue that with the oil price hitting its highest (id=”mce_marker”14 a barrel)¸ there should be a queue of investors at Malta Resources Authority (MRA) wanting to pursue the trail in the search of black gold.

Dr Gatt also asks why Malta is not carrying out enough research of its own. Certainly¸ the oil exploration division is a watered down affair much like a Cinderella of the bunch of departments. At this juncture it is important to note that geologists are the experts responsible for finding oil. It is their job to find the right conditions for an oil trap – the right source rock¸ reservoir rock and entrapment.  For many years¸ geologists interpreted  surface features¸ surface rock and soil types and analysed small core samples obtained by shallow drilling. Modern oil geologists also examine surface rocks and terrain¸ with the additional help of satellite images. However¸ they also use a  variety of other methods to find oil as they use sensitive gravity meters to measure tiny changes in the Earth’s gravitational f