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Valencia Earthquakes 'Manmade' : MInister

Source: El Pais - Thu 3rd Oct 2013
Valencia Earthquakes 'Manmade' : MInister

Industry, Energy and Tourism Minister José Manuel Soria announced on Thursday that there "appears to be" a "direct relation" between the injection of gas into the Castor offshore storage plant off Spain's Mediterranean coast, and a number of tremors that have affected coastal towns in Castellón province this week. The minister did, however, say that there was still no "scientific evidence" to prove a cause and effect.

Speaking to radio station Onda Cero, Soria confirmed that scientists from the National Geographic Institute and the Geological Mining Institute were investigating the causes of the earth tremors in the area, and will determine whether they are being caused by the giant storage plant, which works by injecting gas into a depleted oilfield, located 1,800 meters below sea level.

Soria also pointed out that on September 26, after a tremor measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale was detected, he ordered a halt to the work on the EU-backed facility, which is the largest of its kind in Spain and is located 22 kilometers from the coast of Vinaròs, in the Valencia region province of Castellón.

The minister ordered the closure, he said, "until we know exactly what is going on." The Castor storage plant, which belongs to a company called Escal, was being filled with gas when the tremors began. According to data from the National Geographic Institute, a total of 23 tremors were detected on Wednesday night. Two of these, which occurred at 1am and 1.30am, registered 4.1 on the Richter scale. The remainder of the tremors measured between 1.7 and 2.9 on the Richter scale, according to the same sources.

The biggest tremor detected since the start of the recent problems with the Castor project took place in the early hours of Tuesday morning, and registered 4.2 on the Richter scale. The strength of that earthquake saw the Valencia regional government put its seismic risk plan into action.

The Castor project, which has a total cost of 1.2 billion euros, is designed to make use of the depleted oilfield to supply up to a third of Spain's gas needs during 50 days. But it would seem that the injection of gas has caused hundreds of tremors since September 13, most of which have been on a minor scale.

A number of experts in geology have confirmed that the tremors are indeed related to the Castor project, due to the injection of gas into the rock. But there is no consensus as to the risks and the evolution of the problem.

The company in charge of the project says that the gas injections were finalized several days before the work was halted by the ministry, but the regional government of Catalonia – which is also involved in the affair, given its geographical proximity to Castellón – is not ruling out negligence on the part of Escal.

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