(Corrects official’s title in first paragraph)
BUCHAREST, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Romania could almost double its natural gas production to about 20 billion cubic metres a year by 2025, helped by new offshore discoveries in the Black Sea, one of the general directors of the National Agency for Mineral Resources (ANRM), Sorin Gal, said on Tuesday.
Unlike other countries in the region, Romania is almost entirely energy independent. The European Union state imports less than 10 percent of its gas needs from Russia, with the rest produced locally, largely by state producer Romgaz and OMV Petrom, controlled by Austria’s OMV .
“We produce 10-11 billion cubic metres and consume about as much,” Gal told an energy seminar. “Production will rise to 18-20 billion cubic metres by 2025. Gas producers are looking for markets and buyers.”
Gal also said he had information that neighbouring Ukraine could privatise its national gas transport network within 18 months, with U.S. investors showing interest, adding that Romanian producers could find a new market there.
Two companies could be producing natural gas offshore in Romanian Black Sea waters by 2021, he said.
Black Sea Oil & Gas, controlled by private equity firm Carlyle Group LP, has almost finalised its project and could start producing roughly 1 billion cubic metres of gas per year by the start of 2020 at the latest.
Meanwhile, a joint venture of OMV Petrom and ExxonMobil could start extracting 6 billion cubic metres per year in 2020-2021, Gal said.
Petrom and Exxon have yet to announce an investment decision on their Domino-1 well where they have said they have discovered 1.5-3 trillion cubic feet (42-84 billion cubic metres (bcm)) of gas reserves.
“By the end of November 2018, Exxon should express an intention to ... develop the project,” Gal said. “By 2020-2021 they will probably also start production.”
Russia’s second-largest oil company Lukoil, in a partnership with state-owned Romgaz, has also made a discovery and could start production two years after Exxon, he added.
Gal said official estimates showed Romania could gain 2.8 billion euros ($3.45 billion) in royalty taxes from its offshore gas overall in the next 20 years, based on current prices and discoveries.
In addition, Romgaz and Petrom were digging wells onshore at depths of 5,000 metres or more, with the possibility of new discoveries.
Romania plans to start work this year on its section of a new EU-backed natural gas pipeline to connect Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria and ease reliance on Russian gas. ($1 = 0.8104 euros) (Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Adrian Croft)