Spain could drill and frack its way out of sky-high unemployment and a struggling economy, according to a report this week by consultancy Deloitte.
The Iberian country holds hefty natural gas reserves, including shale gas, which could open up a 44 billion-euro industry ($60 billion), according to the report.
"The development of oil and gas exploration and production in Spain would have a significant impact on the national economy in terms of gross domestic product, employment creation and the balance of trade," said Deloitte in its report on the impact of hydrocarbon production on Spain.
In common with other peripheral euro zone countries like Greece and Ireland, Spain has been hard-hit by the region's sovereign debt crisis. While the rate of contraction in the Spanish economy slowed in 2013, to 1.2 percent, unemployment has continued to rise, hitting a record 26.4 percent.
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However, exploration and production of Spain's natural gas reserves – estimated at some 2.05 trillion cubic meters – could create up to 755,000 jobs by 2033, claimed Deloitte. This would amount to 4.7 percent of current national employment.
The estimate is based on production of 2 billion barrels of oil and 2.5 billion cubic meters of gas.
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Eighty percent of Spain's natural gas reserves are found in shale rock, according to industry group Shale Gas Europe. Most exploration projects are currently located in the Basque-Cantabrian basin in the north of Spain, in Alava, Burgos and Cantabria.
"Spain's significant reserves, if technically recoverable, can support its economy at a time when the country is struggling with a burgeoning debt and has been forced to adopt austerity measures," said Shale Gas Europe on its website.
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Exploration could also help the country become more energy-independent, as Spain currently imports around 99 percent of its oil and gas.
While the government has voiced its support for exploration, some plans have met with local opposition due to fears of sea pollution, and of dissuading tourism. The island of Ibiza, for instance, has started the Eivissa diu no (Ibiza says no) movement to campaign against drilling around the Balearic islands.