San Leon Abandons 6 Gas-Exploration Permit Requests in Spain

  • Applications were in Navarra, Basque region, Aragon, Catalonia
  • Shale in Spain `could hardly be tougher,' Munoz-Conde says

San Leon Energy Plc, the Irish exploration company that’s searched for shale gas across Europe, dropped six of its license applications in Spain.

The company’s Frontera Energy unit asked for the permit requests to be canceled Dec. 1, according to a Spanish government bulletin published Monday, which gave no reason for the move. They were in the northern regions of Navarra, the Basque Country, Aragon and Catalonia. Dublin-based San Leon wasn’t immediately available to comment.

Spain’s government has changed laws and fought court cases to open the way for shale exploration with hydraulic fracturing, though it has yet to authorize any project that uses the production method. The extraction technique, known as fracking, blasts rock with a mixture of sand, water and chemicals to release oil and gas.

“The shale situation in Spain could hardly be tougher,” said Juan Carlos Munoz-Conde, a member of the European Commission’s committee of experts on developing oil and gas from shale. “We have very low energy prices, we have no government that can make a decision on long-term investment -- because we’re heading toward new elections -- and because fracking hasn’t developed a level of public acceptance in most of Europe.”

Frontera requested the permits in February and March of 2011. By abandoning the applications, the company will get its financial guarantees returned.

“With the exception of the U.K., governments aren’t pushing forward at this time,” Munoz-Conde said.

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