BUCHAREST May 9 U.S. oil major Chevron
said on Thursday it plans to start exploration for shale gas in
Romania, where the government has sounded increasingly amenable
to allowing mining by fracking.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates
Romania and neighbouring Bulgaria and Hungary could have 538
billion cubic metres of shale gas between them, slightly more
than Europe's annual consumption and enough to cover Romania's
for almost 40 years.
Chevron will conduct a 2D geophysical study near the Black
Sea and plans to drill exploratory shale wells further north in
Vaslui county, spokeswoman Sally Jones said. The company did not
give a specific date for starting work.
"The exploration phase has a multi-year timeframe. The
results of the exploration stage will determine, in cooperation
with the Romanian government, the commencement of any potential
exploitation activities," Jones said in a statement.
Chevron has rights to explore for shale in three blocks of
670,000 acres (270,000 hectares) near the Black Sea, and has
also bought the concession in Vaslui for an undisclosed amount.
The extraction of shale gas requires hydraulic fracturing,
or fracking, a method that involves injecting water and
chemicals at high pressure into underground rock formations.
Experts say that if it is done according to best practice it is
environmentally safe, but the technology still provokes public
Initially opposed to shale gas, the leftist coalition
government of Victor Ponta has shifted its stance since gaining
power in 2012 and now supports exploration, in pursuit for
energy independence for Romania.
It has stopped short of approving exploitation of shale
wells and thousands protested against shale gas exploration
across Romania last month, asking the government to ban drilling
due to environment concerns.
"To reach exploitation we need to see if we have this
resource and where we have it," Environment Minister Rovana
Plumb said last week.
"From the point of view of the environment ministry there is
no environmental risk in terms of exploration as the hydraulic
fracturing technology is not being used."
Romania is already the least dependent on Russian gas among
its central and eastern European neighbours due to its
conventional reserves and imports only about a quarter if what