BUCHAREST May 6 U.S energy major Chevron
has begun drilling for shale gas at its exploration well
site in eastern Romania, the company said on Tuesday.
Chevron won approval to drill exploratory wells in the small
town of Pungesti in the impoverished Romanian county of Vaslui
last October but had to halt work when protesting residents
blocked access to the site.
It resumed work in December, and drilling began last
Thursday after completing safety and performance checks, the
"Various measurements and rock samples will be taken to
determine if natural gas is present and how it may be produced,"
Chevron said in a statement.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates Romania
could potentially hold 51 trillion cubic feet of shale gas,
which would cover domestic demand for more than a century.
But hundreds of residents in Vaslui protested against
Chevron's plans on concerns that the company would use fracking
- the process of injecting water and chemicals at high pressure
into underground rock formations to push out gas.
Critics, including the Romanian protesters, say it can
pollute water supplies and trigger small earthquakes. Advocates
say it has a strong safety record and point to countries like
the United States, where extensive fracking has driven down
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. It says it is
abiding by all safety regulations.
(Reporting by Radu Marinas; editing by Susan Thomas)