Chevron is back to fracking in Romania after operations were blocked for the second time in two months, and equipment damaged by hundreds of protesters, while riot police stepped in to protect the drilling site.
Equipment was damaged and operations were halted for a day at Chevron’s shale exploration operations in eastern Romania on 7 December when hundreds of protesters broke through the fence surrounding the site in the town of Pungesti, but operations resumed the following day.
Some 300 riot police descended on Pungesti to prevent the protesters from breaking through the Chevron fence, but demonstrators managed to breach the site despite this.
“Chevron can confirm that it has resumed activities... While we respect the right of individuals to express their opinions, it should be done within the law,” the company said in a statement.
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"Our priority is to conduct our activities in a safe and environmentally responsible manner consistent with the permits under which we operate, however this was not possible today."
The Romanian government’s support of shale exploration has earned it the ire of growing numbers of protesters across the country.
Chevron won rights to drill in Pungesti in October, but protesters blocked operations, which resumed only on 2 December, only to be blocked by another protest for a day.
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates Romania’s potential shale gas reserves at 51 trillion cubic feet, but the Romanian public is concerned that the process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) would pollute water supplies through the chemicals injected underground and cause small earthquakes.
Chevron has made enemies in Poland, as well, where it has filed a lawsuit against protesters there who blocked its fracking site.
Across Europe, there is little public support for fracking—a key element keeping Europe from experiencing a shale “revolution” such as that in the US.
Chevron, which has acquired millions of acres in Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Lithuania and Bulgaria, was hoping Eastern Europeans would be supportive.
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"This resource could certainly enhance energy security within Europe and also bring enormous economic benefits," said Ian MacDonald, Chevron vice president for Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East. "Chevron believes that upon learning how these hydrocarbon resources can be explored for and developed safely, the governments and citizens of Central Europe will be supportive."
A KPMG study says that shale extraction costs in Europe will be around 40% higher than in the US. Geologically speaking, Europe’s shale is generally trapped about 50% deeper than US shale and the temperatures are typically higher. These countries would also need very expensive gasification facilities and other infrastructure that is not in place and will add exponentially to the costs of production and getting product to market.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com