Repsol could start drilling off the Canary Islands as soon as October, Spain’s industry and energy minister Jose Manuel Soria has said.
Speaking on Spanish radio, Soria said that his ministry would give the final authorisation for drilling next week and that Repsol has said it could start within a further three months.
"We should be thinking end of October," Soria said on Cadena SER.
Last month, the Spanish oil major won a Supreme Court case seeking to strike down its 2012 permits to drill off the coasts of the tourist islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.
Repsol has the newbuild drillship Rowan Renaissance lined up to drill two wildcats on its nine blocks off the Canary Islands, Sandia and Chirimoya.
The company has mapped six prospects on the permits, all of which lie at least 50 kilometres east of the islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, and outside a protected marine area.
Repsol first gathered 3D seismic on the acreage in 2004 and secured Australia’s Woodside Petroleum and Germany’s RWE Dea as farm-in partners a year later.
However, drilling has long been opposed by local and regional governments as well as campaigners over fears that oil exploration would detract from their tourism livelihoods and disrupt environmentally-sensitive areas.