Moroccan shale output curbed because of ‘earth movement’

CORK, Ireland, A company working on production of natural gas from shale deposits in Morocco said Monday it closed down some of its operations because of seismic activity.


Circle Oil, which has its headquarters in Ireland, said it was temporarily cutting back on natural gas production rates at its operations in Morocco. The company said “a recent earth movement” in northern Morocco resulted in the closure of a pipeline used to transport natural gas from its Sebou field.

“There were no injuries associated with the incident and the pipeline has been closed as a precaution while the situation is assessed and repairs are implemented,” the company said in a statement. “The reduction in gas flow rates is expected to be temporary.”

Circle Oil said about 30 percent of its regional production was impacted by the disruption.

The company has come under significant market pressure because of lower crude oil prices and in June pulled its shares off the market after embarking on a strategic review of its funding priorities.

Morocco holds about 20 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale oil and natural gas reserves, though remains a net importer of fossil fuels.

Data from the U.S. Geological Survey show no recorded seismic events in Morocco in the past week. A report early this year from the USGS found central U.S. states that are rich in shale oil and gas reserves have experienced a dramatic increase in seismic activity over the past six years.

The report said the disposal of oil and gas-related wastewater is the “primary reason” for the increase in seismic activity. In Oklahoma, one of the largest oil producers in the United States, USGS data show 888 tremors hit Oklahoma in 2015, a 51 percent increase from the previous year.