WARSAW (Reuters) - Energy major Chevron (CVX.N) said on Tuesday it was committed to shale gas exploration in Poland though it wanted more consultation with the government on draft amendments to rules before they are adopted.
Three foreign firms - Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), Talisman (TLM.TO) and Marathon (MRO.N) - have pulled out of Polish shale gas, citing difficult geology and short-comings in the regulatory environment.
Industry lobby groups say the draft amendments to the hydrocarbons law, though better than previous versions, do not create the right conditions for firms to invest in Poland, which is seen by some in the industry as Europe's best shale gas hope.
John P. Claussen, Chevron's country manager for Poland, said the industry's dialogue with the government on the shale gas rules had been positive, but there were still issues with the draft to talk about. The environment ministry has submitted the draft to the cabinet for approval.
"We would like the opportunity to continue to have dialogue about some of the issues that are going forward in the bill," Claussen told Reuters in an interview.
"There has been good consultation between the ministry of environment and the industry and there is more opportunity for that," he said.
Claussen would not specify which areas of the draft his company wanted changed. Industry groups have said they want more assurances that they can convert exploration permits into production licenses if they hit gas, more time to explore if needed, and lighter penalties if they miss deadlines.
Chevron has four concessions in southeastern Poland, which represent its first shale gas presence in Europe.
Claussen said that after drilling an exploration well on one of the concessions, Frampol, the company did not plan any further work on that particular well.
He declined to say if that decision was made because data from the well showed there were no commercial reserves. He did say though that Chevron was planning more work on other wells, and was not ruling out more wells on the Frampol concession.
"Where the industry is right now is evaluation of potential resources .... It's still very preliminary in terms of the results that we have," Claussen said.
"We are still committed to the work that we are doing in Poland. We still have work to do."
At another of its Polish shale gas concessions, near the village of Zurawlow, local people occupied a work site when contractors started trying to erect a fence.
Claussen said the company was working with local authorities to try to resolve that issue. He said the company was committed to operating in a safe and responsible way, and was bringing real benefits to communities where it operates.
Campaigners say extracting shale gas, which involves pumping liquid at high pressure into the earth to fracture rock formations that trap natural gas, is harmful to the environment, something the industry denies.
(Editing by Jeff Coelho)