23 November 2012 6:04 pm | | 10


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Civil society groups protest the prospect of shale-gas drilling in Tunisia on November 7.

International energy firm Shell has responded to two articles that were published on November 7 by online Tunisian media Tunivisions and Tunisia Live and shed light on grassroots opposition to a proposal for shale gas drilling.

“Shell supports the rights of Tunisians to engage in discussions about onshore gas development,” read the statement. “Further, we hope to inform a rational, fact-based conversation with Tunisians about the benefits of safe and responsible energy development.”

Shale gas is a natural gas taken from sedimentary rocks that are located 2,000 and 3,000 meters underground. Critics believe that its drilling introduces carcinogenic waste into the environment and nearby water supplies.

On November 7, Tunisian civil society organizations gathered in front of the Ministry of Industry and Energy, denouncing the environmental and health hazards posed by shale-gas drilling.

According to Shell’s statement, the energy firm adheres to “a set of global onshore gas operating principles that [it] believe[s] provide a framework for water, air, wildlife and respecting the communities in which [it] operate[s].”

The communications office of Shell’s Tunisia branch was not available for further comment prior to publication on the exact measures that it would take to address widely-shared environmental concerns.

In mid-2012, Shell submitted a request for an exploration permit, and the Tunisian government is still studying the petition.

Youssef Hachemi, spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry, suggested to Tunisia Live on November 7 that shale gas extraction in Tunisia may be a potential boost to the economy.

An independent NGO, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, forwarded the two articles to Shell and obtained the firm’s response on Tuesday, November 20.

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Comments (10)

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  1. Mehdi says:

    Drill baby drill! Environmental policy and ENGOs will come later. For now the people need jobs and an economic stimulus. Shale Oil can provide this granted that the oil fields, drilling companies, contractors, and resource development are managed in house and profits are utilized at home. There is no point in selling a contract that will detach the resource from the people so some politicians can benefits from kickbacks. If Tunisians actually can do the work on their own, the environmental risks can be mitigated later.

  2. Mohamed W says:

    We must demand Shell and others share information with us about their plans and publish their plans and technologies and chemicals. Tunisia has little water and if Shell can overcome challenges we can welcome them because of jobs.

  3. Nasri says:

    Regardless of the potential impact of shale gas production on the environment, the problem i think is more with Shell than it’s with shale. It has been a rule of thumb in the process of contract awarding in the oil and gas industry that the legacy of any bidder in what concerns his committment towards environmental, safety and corporate responsibility towards local communities must be a decisive factor. In this regard, The infamous legacy of Shell in the Niger delta, to mention just an example, is quite sufficient to put this company out of any fair competition. The mere recruitment of this evil is a clear sign of corruption.

    Shell is responsible for the most devestating oil spills in the Niger delta that caused damage beyond comprehension to the ecosystem. Furthermore, Shell is involved in financing and supporting warlords and militias that spread death across local communities for the only reason to boost its interests there. Shell is facing many lawsuits across the world for its violations and disregard of the human dignity. It would be a shame if Shell is granted any contracts in this country.

  4. Jawed says:

    Shell has a dismal record when it comes to protecting the environment, just look at its practices in Nigeria. Recently the U.S. government slapped Shell’s sister oil company with the largest fine in the history of the oil industry for violating every law in the book. Tunisia doesn’t have the power to prosecute Shell in case of an environmental and/or Human desaster. Those who are peddling the idea of Shell helping resolve Tunisia’s unemployment are corruptible government officials and foreigners who could care less about the Tunisian people.
    As for Gillian’s condescending “third world” comment, I suggest you take your “first world” ignorant bigotry elsewhere. Tunisia has sufficient educated people to see through Shell’s greed and your colonialist attitude.
    Tunisia has always relied on its human development potential and should stick to the same path.

  5. Joshua Valle says:

    Tunisia needs jobs, not fear mongering. When people don’t understand something they tend to fear it.

    Tunisians need links to fact based articles and research. This is the internet, not a newspaper. I wish that tunisia-live would model in their reporting a better fact finding methodology. I wish that people that comment on their articles, when making blanket claims, would link to studies that support their points.

    http://www.ostseis.anl.gov/

  6. Angela says:

    All multi national companies have some risks attached to them. Its up to the government to ensure the rights, health environmental impacts of the company on the people of Tunisia….Problem is this government sold the Libyan prisoner back to Libya so I am sure it will not bat an eye with Shell and sell their people short.

    Gaddafi made the Shell company invest in infrastructure, build schools and hospitals and pay big premiums to its people……Shell has gone to Tunisia because Libya is no longer functioning correctly and it will be depending on members of the government who are corrupt enough to push this through…and I suspect they will find not one but several of one’s who are will to sell their people out….

    But then the Tunisian people in many instances do not seem yet to be connected with how to influence and become part of these would be massive changes

  7. Gloria says:

    When Tunisia is crying for employment for people and the debate for and against shale oil gas drilling is just that ———a debate then I believe the feeding of people come ahead of everything. Jobs and an economic boost to Tunisia is what is needed. Let’s get realistic here

    • Gillian says:

      I can see both sides of the debate .. but there are ways any company developing a ‘product’ in Tunisia can ensure the safety and welfare of its employees and the environment it works in .. other countries ensure that measures are put in place beforehand to cover all eventualities .. so why not here in Tunisia? If you ask for too much .. then use your own expertise and skill base to ‘do it yourself’ because you are still bordering on ’3rd world’ existence for the majority of your population.

  8. Amira Ben says:

    Shell explanation is untrue. It is scientifically proven by several studies that shale gaz extraction will endanger the health and safety of all the surrounding environment. Shell is thinking about PROFIT not PEOPLE or ENVIRONMENT. Shell statement is just a LIE.

    • Ahmed says:

      Amira — it’s actually your statement which is not sure. What studies are you referring to? Are you aware of the shale gas revolution occuring in the US, where this same industry is creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and lifting the economy after years of recession? This is not an either/or proposition — this industry can help Tunisia in a time of great need and we can demand that they do this safely with no human health impacts? Do you actually think an industry like this would be allowed to operate in places like US and Europe if it were not safe and proven?

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