Romania gives green light for shale gas exploration in Dobrogea region, minister says no fracking involved

Romania recently gave the green light to several companies to explore for shale gas in the Dobrogea region. The announcement was made by the Environment Minister Rovana Plumb.

«In order to get to exploitation, we need to see if we have this resource and when we have it. And without exploration we cannot find out. Yes,we have given the OK for Dobrogea, because there isn’t any risk […]», – said Plumb. Without mentioning the names of the companies given clearance for exploration, she argued that there isn’t any risk for the environment when exploring for shale gas as the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology will not be used.

«The first phase is the prospecting phase, which checks the risk of earthquakes,then the second phase, which usually takes five years, is the exploration phase; the third phase, after five years, is exploitation», – the minister further explained.

In Romania, Chevron owns rights to exploration and exploitation of gas in Barlad and three areas in Constanta county – Vama Veche, Adamclisi and Costinesti – for which Chevron received concession agreements in March 2012. According to the company, the three onshore blocks cover some 2,700 sq km. The company previously said it was hoping to start exploration this year.

Hydraulic fracturing is the fracturing of various rock layers by a pressurized liquid, and is more commonly known as fracing, fraccing, or fracking. It is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas, and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction. Opponents of this technique complain about the potential environmental impacts, including contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, the migration of gases and pushing chemicals to the surface.

Not only the Dobrogea area has been cleared for exploring for shale gas,but the rest of the country too, even if not yet officially. Minister Rovana Plumb said the environmental agreement for prospecting and even exploration can be given, as there isn’t any risk to the environment.

She cited the need for energy independence for all EU member states, and shale gas exploration is one of the solutions, with examples found in Poland and in UK.

Earlier in March, a group of Romanian officials went on a visit to US to attend presentations on shale gas extraction. Representatives from the Economy and Environment Ministries, as well as from the National Agency for Mineral Resources and from the National Authority for Energy Regulation, including its head Niculae Havrileţ were invited by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency to learn about shale gas extraction. The Romanian team went to Texas, where technical demonstrations are given by the American firms Halliburton, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Cameron, all of which have activities in Romania.

US energy company Chevron has been in negotiations over shale gas exploration in Romania for well over a year. The Social Liberal Union (USL) put all shale gas projects on hold last year when the party took power. Since then, EU environmental studies on the impact of shale gas exploration have been published and the Romanian government has allowed projects to continue.

Adapted from Romania-Insider