Trial over 500 earthquakes caused by gas injection begins

The process will be extended for eleven sessions and will begin with the declaration of the two accused directors

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The offshore platform of the Castor gas storage facility will winter until the state decides whether to dismantle it or not.

BarcelonaA Castellón court will hear from this Monday at 10 am the trial of what is known as the Castor case, in which two Escal UGS managers stand accused of being responsible for over 500 earthquakes caused by the injection of gas in an offshore platform, since closed. According to sources from Valencia's High Court, throughout the eleven sessions planned for the process the court will hear the two defendants, former president of Escal UGS Recaredo del Potro, and former CEO Martínez Dalmau, as well as 189 witnesses, 6 expert witnesses and 35 experts. The sessions will begin with the two defendants' statements.

The events took place in September 2013, when the injection of gas in the Castor underground platform off the coast of Vinaròs (Baix Maestrat) and Alcanar (Montsià) caused a series of earthquakes, more than 500. Some were felt by the population and nine caused "considerable damage" to nine homes in Vinaròs and Sant Mateu, in Baix Maestrat, and Amposta and Sant Carles de la Ràpita, in Montsià.

A study led by the Institute of Environmental Diagnosis and Water Studies (IDAEA) and the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM), both belonging to the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), revealed the mechanisms that produced the earthquakes that took place after the injection of gas into the Castor storage facility in 2013 and led to its closure four years later. According to this analysis, the gas injection produced "excess pressure and a gas flotation effect that moved the Amposta fault, which in turn destabilised another deeper one, unknown until now, and caused the earthquakes of greater magnitude perceived by the population"

Each affected person asks for €15,000

The prosecution, exercised by the National Association Arca Ibérica, is seeking for seven years in prison for the two directors for the alleged crimes against natural resources and the environment "with serious risk of damage to the health of people and serious risk of irreversible or catastrophic deterioration" that would have been committed when the gas storage was operational.

In addition, these seismic movements generated, in the judge's opinion, "a situation of potentially catastrophic danger that continued until, finally, the administration agreed to cease activity until there was a guarantee that it could continue without any risk".

A total of 123 people affected by these earthquakes are claiming €1.8m from the company Escal UGS for moral damages caused by "the wave of general panic" as a result of the earthquakes that were detected in the affected towns. The law firm BCV Lex, representing the association Aplaca (formed by 123 residents of the affected towns), has asked the Provincial Court of Castellón for a compensation of €15,000 for each of those affected in the trial, according to legal sources.