Bulgarian Parliament Bans Shale Gas Exploration

SOFIA (Dow Jones Newswires), Jan. 18, 2012

Bulgarian lawmakers slapped a ban Wednesday on shale gas exploration and production, bowing to strong public pressure over environmental concerns.

In a special resolution, the parliament "banned the use of the method of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and oil exploration on Bulgarian territory and its Black Sea waters."

It also specifically banned "shale gas exploration using the above mentioned method."

Violators risked fines of 100 million leva (EUR50 million, $65 million) and confiscation of all equipment, according to the resolution which was backed by 169 deputies of the 175 who cast votes.

Hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking', uses high pressure injections of water, sand and chemicals to blast through rock and release oil and gas trapped inside.

But although popular in the U.S., opponents warn of the environmental impact, insisting there is high risk of contaminating the land and drinking water and of triggering earthquakes.

Wednesday's ban was a U-turn on the previous government's plans to start drilling for shale deposits in northeastern Bulgaria as a way to wean the country off its total dependence on Russian natural gas deliveries, and followed vehement protests from environmentalists across the country in recent months.

On Tuesday, the government revoked a five-year test drilling permit granted last year to U.S. oil giant Chevron Corp. citing "the lack of sufficient assurances that the commonly used shale gas drilling method of hydraulic fracturing can guarantee environmental safety."

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov meanwhile cited public pressure as the reason for backing off plans to develop shale gas, after anti-'fracking' rallies in Sofia and other major cities drew thousands of people last weekend.

Environmentalists welcomed the ban Wednesday but insisted that shale gas exploration by 'fracking' should not only be banned in a resolution but forbidden by law, as is the case in France.

"A quickly adopted resolution can be cancelled just as quickly," Mariana Hristova from the Fracking Free Bulgaria group told AFP.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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Dean | Jan. 25, 2012
Thank you Luis Vera, Great explanation.

West Houston Geo | Jan. 21, 2012
Banning hydraulic fracturing is like restricting gold mining to hand panning. Fracturing is a 60 year old technique that has been done millions of times, worldwide. Cant speak for elsewhere, but the US has had not one legitimate case of fracturing harming groundwater. But, hey if Bulgaria wants to ignore the rich and valuable natural resource, why then more power to em. That means the rest of us will get a slightly better profit when Bulgaria buys our gas.

Bulgarian | Jan. 21, 2012
this ban does not have anything to do with environment. It is clearly a win of russian lobby who have the interest to: 1) continue to sell gas to BG at prices at least twice the normal 2) want, and already explore the same reservoirs - but beeing very careful not to use the hated words "shale gas" and "fracking" in public, and 3) the current project to buid a second nuclear power plant that is beeing assesed today would inevitably be a NO GO if BG can turn into a gas producer in near future. So it is 3 to 1 for the russians, and yes - this is why we are and will still be a 3rd world country.

West Houston | Jan. 20, 2012
Bulgaria doesnt want to be prosperous...got it. So, there is one less competitor in the Shale Revolution.

MrInvestor | Jan. 20, 2012
As is often the case, environmental scare-mongering runs rampant as the facts remain hidden. I think the energy industry should create a means to educate people and politicos on the facts before we have another self-imposed straight jacket suffocating logical gas development.

Nick | Jan. 20, 2012
Well,.... Bulgaria doesn't have big territory like USA, so to turn the best soil for agriculture into desert will be the most stupid decision. We have culture, history (founded 681 A.D.) and the tourism is the thing we must develop. "Bulgaria is 3rd world country" can be said only by uneducated American, for whom culture means McDonalds. When we had culture you weren't even evolved from the monkeys. Cheers. Good that we kicked out Chevron. We must do this with the other greedy corporations from Russia, USA and UK.

Jon David Bruner | Jan. 19, 2012
As someone who makes a living in the oil industry, it may be time for the U.S. to look at the fracking process. I would hate to see it get shut down totally, but maybe we should set limits on the amount of wells in a given field.

Luis Alberto Vera | Jan. 19, 2012
Gent, fraccing sand packs contained in shales as seals to avoid vertical propagation has been a very old practice worldwide, but fraccing shales which are themselves the seals is another issue unless upper packs of shales are present as to contain fracture propagation. However, risk is lower in shallow formations without any barriers where fracture is most likely to be horizontal due to the magnitude and orientation of the least principal stress. Whenever this risk exists complex gel, low rate and short volumes is the option to stimulate and enhance production. Best regards Luis Vera-PE.

Jim | Jan. 19, 2012
Remember you did this when the Russians turn your gas off next winter......

Mark Cooper | Jan. 19, 2012
Hilarious- more evidence as to why Bulgaria is still a 3rd world country!

Dean | Jan. 18, 2012
We have been completing wells with fracs for 60 years, can somebody please tell me what the issue is?

David | Jan. 18, 2012
Cool! We can sell natural gas to Bulgaria. Opportunity!

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