Approximately 80% of the energy consumed in Italy today comes from hydrocarbons (49% oil, 31% gas). In 2001, domestic production covered about 23% of gas and only less than 4% of oil consumptions. From a mere technical standpoint, the exploitation of the existing fields and the development of some recently discovered oil and gas reservoirs could increase domestic production. Moreover, it is estimated that the application of advanced technologies might double the reserves, mainly with new discoveries. However, in a small country like Italy, where the population is heavily concentrated, very often the oil or gas reservoirs are located in environmentally sensitive areas, so that their exploitation might pose problems. After a brief review of some case histories related to such critical areas, the paper examines the technical challenges, together with the solution taken so far, with particular reference to the following hazards: a) onshore and offshore reservoirs located along the shoreline or in marshes and lagoons, where land settlements would cause a regression of the coast and flooding (e.g., Po Delta area, Venice and its lagoon, Ravenna, etc.); b) reservoirs located in natural parks where pollution due to release of oil, mud or other pollutants on the soil, or excavation and deforestation, could damage the environment (e.g., Ticino River natural park, Val d'Agri natural park, etc.); c) reservoirs located near urban settlements, where there are serious restrictions to drilling and production, limits to noise, traffic, water and soil pollution etc. At last, the paper examines the local and national constraints and the environmental limitations for a sustainable management of oil and gas reservoirs in Italy.

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