ENERGY & GEORESOURCES
Malta has a number of natural resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Limestone: a geomaterial that has been used since prehistory for construction and now extracted for crushed aggregate production with application to concrete and asphalt.
Clay and phosphate: no commercial use till now
Hydrocarbons: no commercial quantities have been discovered.
Hydrogen gas: no discoveries
Mc Kelvey diagram of Natural Resources of Malta
Malta is one of the three European countries most dependent on fossil fuels for its energy needs: Cyprus (discovered gas field), Malta and Poland (includes coal).
Since no hydrocarbons were discovered in Malta, all hydrocarbons must be imported.
Visits the Chamber's Discussion paper on the role of hydrocarbons: Geology for Energy in Malta
The Maltese continental shelf is the largest and most valuable asset held by the Republic of Malta. It covers an area of 70,000 km2 and is estimated to be worth billions of euro in value. Exploration for hydrocarbons over the past 65 years resulted in 13 wells and several kilometres of seismic lines. All 13 wells are not producing. From 1980, 19 licences have been awarded: 10 exploration licences under Exploration Study Agreements and 9 exploration/production licences under Production Sharing Contracts.
Malta’s continental shelf and land area is circa one-twelfth of that of Italy, although the density of wells over the Maltese continental shelf is about forty times less than that of Italy. The Maltese continental shelf remains under explored. Over the past 60 years, the Maltese oil exploration programme showed 2 anomalies compared to global and regional trends :
1. The frequency of Maltese oil wells through time and the depth reached by wells is generally inversely related to the global price of oil (r = -0.32), i.e., when the global price of oil is high, fewer and shallower wells were bored in Malta.
2. Maltese wells are relatively deep: >50% of Maltese wells exceed 4 km depth, whereas <2% productive American wells (based on >2 million U.S. wells) and 6% of Italian wells (based on >7000 Italian wells) exceed 4 km depth.
Exploration have been the Jurassic carbonate reservoirs productive in offshore Sicily and Palaeogene carbonates equivalent to Tunisian targets. Both targets have failed to produce any oil and gas and may be inapplicable to Malta.
Map showing location of oil wells and continental shelf claims
Hydrogen gas is the future of carbon-free economies. Presently, hydrogen gas is produced from methane gas which is a hydrocarbon. The future lies in drilling for subsurface hydrogen. Subsurface hydrogen is already fuelling small communities in experimental cases in West Africa.
Read more: Subsurface Hydrogen
Within a European context, the Maltese quarrying industry represents a special case of problems. The Islands’ size is a mere 316 km2, where stone quarries presently supply the local burgeoning construction industry with quarry products. The major constraints for quarrying are the lack of territory and the limited rock resources which constrain this industry from expanding to its full potential. This is aggravated by an insularity which has retarded modernisation and restructuring within the context of global competition. The environmental impacts of quarrying are also more readily perceived in a very densely populated country like Malta.