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.