* Local residents oppose shale gas
* Romania has substantial reserves of recoverable gas-US
BUCHAREST Dec 2 U.S. oil major Chevron
has resumed its search for shale gas in eastern Romania, it said
on Monday, despite opposition from local residents.
In October the company won approval to drill exploratory
wells in the small town of Pungesti in the impoverished eastern
county of Vaslui but had to halt works soon after as local
residents blocked access to the site.
Thousands of people have rallied across Romania in recent
months to protest against government support for shale gas
exploration and separate plans to set up Europe's largest open
cast gold mine in a small Carpathian town.
"Chevron can confirm that it has resumed operations," the
company said in a statement.
"Our priority is to conduct these activities in a safe and
environmentally responsible manner consistent with the permits
under which we operate."
On Monday up to 300 riot police were in Pungesti, 340 km
(210 miles) northeast of capital Bucharest, blocking a road and
barring residents from the Chevron site, a spokeswoman told
local television stations.
Villagers have been taking turns guarding the site since
October, sleeping in tents. They oppose the project and say they
do not want what they say are the environmental risks of
hydraulic fracturing, or fracking - the process of injecting
water and chemicals at high pressure into shale formations to
release the gas.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that
Romania could potentially recover 51 trillion cubic feet of
shale gas, which would cover domestic demand for more than a
Chevron, which also has rights to explore three licence
blocks near the Black Sea, does not have plans to use fracking
under its five-year exploration programme.