PETROLEUM: AREA ALBANIA

Albania is currently among the poorest European countries with a per capita income of 4.500$. However, it is home to an immensely rich subsoil with more than 5,3 billion barrels of crude lying beneath the surface. The communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha began in 1941 and initiated an isolationism that only left the country open to like minded Soviet and Chinese influences. These relationships manifested themselves in the development of the technological capabilities necessary to begin tapping into Albania’s oil wells.

Since the fall of the regime in 1985, free market capitalism began to take hold and various corporations entered the single market once dominated by the state owned Albpetrol. Chinese and Canadian companies now own 95% of crude extraction in the Patos-Marzina region under the name of Bankers Petroleum. Despite a seismic shift in the market, a large part of the refineries and storage facilities built in the sixties and seventies have been maintained and are now the source of dangerous social and environmental issues in the region such as; contaminated lakes, oil leaks, the poisoning of underground water wells rendering the water undrinkable and unusable for agriculture, and massive gas emissions that affect the villages surrounding the refineries.

In order to extract the crude from under the soil the refineries use different techniques including fracking as of most recently. The introduction of fracking has resulted in the regular earthquakes destroying the homes of 71 residents and damaging 540 more. Bankers Petroleum made a donation to help rebuild some of the homes but has not claimed responsibility.

Author Jaime de Lorenzo and Jordi Jon PardoYear2019LocationFier, AlbaniaStatusWork in progress

Reis, a 44 years old ex-worker of the Ballsh refinery, poses on the roof of his home. Almost no one in Ballsh wants to talk about the industry that is diminishing their lives.

The refinery. Towns such as the village of Ballsh were only built a kilometer outside of a refinery and live in a deadly harmony with an outdated industry that contaminates their environment and slowly lowers their life expectancy.

Tire tracks from a truck reflect the state of abandonment and lack of control that exists in oil wells run by Albpetrol, Albania's state owned oil company.

Dismantled buildings, abandoned gas stations and plots for sale are a common part of the Albanian landscape. In the photograph, a dismantled structure next to a service station that has been converted into a hay warehouse for the surrounding farmers.

Workers of Bankers Petroleum in the oil field of Marinëz. In order to extract the crude from under the soil the refineries use different techniques including fracking as of most recently in the south of Albania. The introduction of fracking has resulted in the regular earthquakes destroying the homes of 71 residents and damaging 540 more during the last decade. Bankers Petroleum made a donation to help rebuild some of the homes but has not claimed responsibility.

A blank billboard sits by a highway outside of Lushnja. A predominant element of the Albanian roads in the most polluted area of the country, where companies are not pursuing advertising.

The abandoned power plant on the outskirts of Fier. This town became one of the most important cities in Albania during the era of industrialization after the Second World War. Industrial plants and a refinery were constructed. In the 1960s, Korporata Elektroenergjitike Shqiptare (Albanian Electric Power Company, KESH) constructed a huge steam power plant (Termocentrali i Fierit) with an adjoining fertilizer factory. In 2007 it was finally shut down and the entire area sold to a Greek investment group for the symbolic price of a single Euro.

Waste invasion in southwest Albania. The suburbs of Lushnja are turning into dumpsites. Waste management and its industrial processes are another environmental problem of the country.

A group of kids poses inside the Internet café of Ballsh. Towns such as this village were built one kilometer outside of a refinery and live in a deadly harmony with an outdated industry that contaminates their environment and slowly lowers their quality of life.

One of the techniques used by Bankers Petroleum to extract gas and oil from the subsoil is fracking. This has caused earthquakes that destroyed 71 houses and partially damaged 540 between 2013 and 2017. Many residents of Zharrëz have had to leave their homes for fear of collapsing.

Traces of the cars. The vehicle is the Albanian religion, the most popular car in Albania is the Mercedes-benz.