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Basilicata oil covers 6% of Italy’s demand and constitutes 69% of domestic production

by Jacopo Giliberto

The most productive oil area in Italy (and continental Europe) is the Basilicata Region: its subsoil today constitutes two thirds – 69% – of all crude oil extracted in the country; and when the Tempa Rossa oil field is launched, there will be a further 50,000 barrels a day.

The updated figures say Basilicata, whose oil fields are at the heart of an investigation that has recently led to the resignation of Federica Guidi, Minister for Economic Development, yielded 3.75 million tons of oil and 1.49 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

That’s a lot, set against the entire domestic production, which amounts to 5.44 million tons and 6.88 billion cubic meters respectively. In other words, Basilicata represents 69% of all the oil extracted in Italy and 22.9% of natural gas.

These are mere crumbs compared to Italians’ demand of gasoline, diesel and methane, which has resumed rising after twenty years’ decline.

Basilicata is a very important oil region in terms of domestic supply, yet a minimal one when compared to consumption. In 2015, Italians burnt 67.52 billion cubic meters of methane, showing a dramatic 9.1% increase versus 2014, yet the country’s natural gas fields reduced production by 5.3%, and the present 6.77 billion cubic meters extracted from the national subsoil satisfy just 10% of gas demand. Consequently, the endless pipelines that convey gas to our country have increased the amount transferred by 9.8%, i.e. 55.7 billion cubic meters in 2015.

Basilicata thus covers around 6% of Italian oil demand. This is an approximate estimate; part of the crude oil extracted from the oil fields of Lucania, in Val d’Agri, then conveyed to the Viggiano hub and to the ENI refinery in Taranto, does not remain in Italy. Instead, it is loaded onto tankers that go around the world.

The value of Basilicata oil fields will rise considerably when the Tempa Rossa field – run by Total with minority partners Mitsui and Shell – becomes productive. A few appraisal wells have been drilled to explore the size of the reservoir, but extraction of natural gas and oil has not yet begun. Once the field is launched properly, however, production is expected to be 50,000 barrels a day (Italy has reserves for about 600 million barrels): that’s to say, around 40% of domestic oil production; as well as 230,000 cubic meters of natural gas and 240 tons a day of petroleum gas (propane and butane).

In terms of royalties, Basilicata has gained around €150 million, a figure that varies continuously since it depends on market’s prices. In 2014, the price of oil was three times what it is today, around €100 per barrel (equivalent to 159 liters), so royalties were much more rewarding.