The Bulgarian parliament partially lifted the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in natural gas and oil exploration and extraction June 14. Economy and Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev was quick to point out that the moratorium is only lifted as far as conventional gas extraction is concerned. The use of hydraulic fracturing technology is still banned for shale gas activities.
"The extraction of local gas is 40% cheaper. I hope that you support this text, since it would be a clear message that we want reasonable gas prices and energy independence. The ban in the moratorium is perfectly clear. Points 2 and 3 show that shale gas research and extraction are banned," Dobrev told parliament, Novinite reported.
On January 17, the Bulgarian government revoked a shale gas exploration permit granted to Chevron for deposits in northeastern Bulgaria, citing the insufficient proof of the environmental safety of hydraulic fracturing. The following day, parliament adopted an indefinite moratorium on hydraulic fracturing following a wave of environmental protests.
Bulgaria plans to grant a concession contract to a TransAtantic Petroleum unit to start production of gas in northern Bulgaria, where it has discovered between three to 6bn cubic metres of natural gas, Reuters reported. It is also awaiting bids by July 1 to explore a deepwater gas field off Black Sea coast, close to a field in Romanian waters where a successful discovery was made.
Initial estimates showed Bulgaria may have significant shale gas reserves, up to 1.0 trillion cubic metres, which could help it cut its almost total dependence on Russian supply.
Earlier this month, KPMG released a report that said shale gas development in central and eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, is "inevitable" in the next decade even though the country has imposed a moratorium under public pressure.
The report focused on Poland, Romania, Ukraine, and to a lesser extent, Lithuania, Hungary and Bulgaria, where it says there are "fantastic opportunities, lying beneath peoples' feet."
Environmentalists decry the process of hydraulic fracturing and it has been banned in France and suspended in the UK and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The EU is currently studying the environmental impacts of the process.