Ponta says Romania has no shale gas, Chevron begs to differ

Shale gas protest in Romania [Shutterstock]

Romania has fought hard to discover shale gas that apparently does not exist, Prime Minister Victor Ponta said late yesterday (9 November). But US energy giant Chevron was quick to respond that it had yet to finalise an assessment of the country’s shale gas potential.

“It looks like we don’t have shale gas, we fought very hard for something that we do not have,” Ponta told television channel Antena 3.

“I cannot tell you more than this but I don’t think we fought for something that existed,” he said, in the middle of a campaign ahead of a 16 November runoff in which he is running for President.

Today Chevron retorted that it has yet to complete an assessment of Romania’s natural gas potential from shale.

“Chevron is analysing the data gathered during its drilling and seismic operations to further understand the resource potential of natural gas from shale,” Chevron told Reuters.

“When the analysis has been completed, the results will be provided to the National Agency of Mineral Resources (NAMR) and will remain in the [Romanian] state’s custody.”

Romania is the third most energy-independent EU member. Like its emerging European Union peer Poland, the country has opened the door to firms seeking to discover shale gas, hoping to mirror a boom in cheap energy seen in the United States.

Earlier this year, Chevron said it finalised exploration works at a well in the eastern Romanian village of Pungesti, after repeatedly postponing operations because of protests from local residents.

Chevron also has rights for three licence blocks in Romania near the Black Sea, supporting a drive to find alternative gas resources which has become more urgent since the conflict broke out in Ukraine, through which Russia sends half of its gas exports to the EU.

The US Energy Information Administration has estimated Romania could potentially hold 51 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, which would cover domestic demand for more than a century. 

Shale gas is an "unconventional" fossil fuel that is found within natural fissures and fractures underground. Until recently, no method of safely transporting it to the surface existed.

It is mined via hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", the process of breaking apart layers of shale by pumping liquids and a number of chemical additives under high pressure, releasing trapped gas reserves.

To its supporters, shale gas represents an untapped and welcome alternative energy source to traditional fossil fuels. At the moment the EU depends to a great extent on gas imported from Russia, while disputes between that country and Ukraine have disrupted winter supplies in recent years.

  • 16 November: Runoff of Romanian presidential election

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