Premium article – The shale gas controversy


Shale gas exploration and exploitation stirs controversy. On the one hand, there are experts who claim that, by using this type of unconventional gas, the country’s energy independence would be ensured, and, on the other hand, other experts and especially the population in the areas with potential shale gas resources are against it, for public health reasons. For the moment, there are no extensive studies showing either that shale gas exploitation is extremely harmful for the environment and thus for the people’s health, or that, on the contrary, the exploitation has no environmental repercussions. [cleeng_content id=”521658089″ price=”11.99″ description=”Buy this translation today. The article has 9598 characters with spaces”]Romania can and must urgently start shale gas exploration, Professor Nicolae Napoleon Antonescu, honorific lecturer of the Oil and Gas University in Ploiesti, stated at the conference “Energy Future – Energy Scenarios – 2050 Vision. Energy strategy – PND 2020”, organized by the Romanian National Committee of the World Energy Council (CNR-CME) with the Romanian Academy. “I would be happy to start exploration, because it will certainly last 5-6 years until we reach exploitation. We don’t even know how much gas we have, how important the reserves are and what the exploitation duration will be, so we should be happy that Chevron is willing to start exploration in these areas and, of course, exploitation. If we take the U.S. example, which was a gas importer, since it exploited shale gas it became a gas exporter. Moreover, in Texas only about 300-400 thousand new direct jobs were created and other 1mln related jobs. So, these communities should understand that they will have great benefit from this area, first for economic development, job creation”, Antonescu stated. However, he said, the conditions in which the partnership between the Romanian state and Chevron is made is another issue, which should be dealt by the Government, the National Energy Regulatory Authority and the National Agency for Mineral Resources, having the possibility of concession or production sharing. The specialist referred, among others, to hydraulic fracturing, explaining that it has been performed for 50 years in Romania, with the difference that it has been executed on vertical drilling to increase the oil or gas influx to the borehole. “We have never had a problem with such hydraulic fracturing. The main difference is that, instead of executing it over distances of 100m, we do it on distances of thousands of meters, and the only major problem is the high pressure required – around 1,000 bars and more. I want to say that Romania has built cementing, fracturing and additive aggregates up to 1,400 bars, and in Romania there are currently both Romanian and foreign aggregates, which have such facilities”, he explained. In terms of seismic effects that hydraulic fracturing could have, the professor showed that “there’s much exaggeration and manipulation of the public opinion”, showing that it is “stupid”. “If a tram crosses the street, it shakes our house 100 times more powerful than the waves generated at 1,000 – 2,000 – 3,000 meters deep, where these reserves are located”, he stated. Also, statements on water pollution were dismantled by the specialist, who stressed that at any oil or gas well there is the same problem if the technology is not properly implemented, if it is not properly cemented and operated. “The only problem with the hydraulic fracturing would be the huge amounts of water needed. In Dobrogea it would be easy, because there are countries that use salty sea water”, the professor added. Antonescu also raised the problem of recycling the water used in the hydraulic fracturing process, but reassured that it wouldn’t be discharged into rivers, part of it remaining in the soil and another part following to be recycled. If discharged, it will purify in the same manner as domestic water, he added. “In Barlad, probably the local authorities have started to understand this issue because both us and Chevron and others have made public debates in both Barlad, Constanta and in other regions, to clarify these issues. There are still reluctances in this regard. The main problem in shale gas exploitation is the development of the so-called horizontal wells. They start vertically and then continue horizontally into the reservoir, unlike the current exploitation of conventional fields, where wells always cross the reservoir vertically. Thus, we wouldn’t exploit it broadways. Lengths of even 3-4-5km have been reached on horizontal wells”, Nicolae Napoleon Antonescu also stated. “We have everything we need: equipment, technologies, experience, specialists. In hydraulic treatment and fracturing we have no problems, with a single condition: complying with technologies and the related legislation entirely”, the professor concluded.

The public must accept shale gas exploration and exploitation

Romania cannot promote shale gas without the public’s acceptance and without properly informing the population about the advantages and implications of such resources, but also about the latest technologies used in this process, the Chairman of the Committee for Industries and Services of the Chamber of Deputies, Iulian Iancu, stated. He specified that shale gas was a topic that had aroused revolution at world level last year and, fortunately, it could be an important reserve for Romania, if its existence was confirmed. However, its exploitation cannot be done without informing the population and holding a debate in this regard. “We cannot promote such a resource without the public’s acceptance and without preparing the population and properly informing it about the advantages, implications, latest technologies in this exploitation. Which is why the Romanian Academy has submitted for public debate this topic with all the known aspects, from accidents which are today easily understood and posted on the internet, to the latest technology, which managed to bring the safety and security element and turned the U.S. from an importer to a natural gas exporter”, Iancu stated, according to Agerpres. In his opinion, the topic cannot be promoted “abruptly”, it must be publicly debated and the population, especially that living in the areas with a confirmed shale gas potential, must be properly informed. “A technology that does not have the public acceptance does not exist. Therefore, for Romania it would be a dramatic consequence to be unable to capitalize its shale gas reserves because it does not know how to make it in a mutual communication and information and in guaranteeing the elimination of any risk factor in its exploitation and, especially, of the environmental impact and on the water layer and groundwater, for which this type of concern exists today”, CNR-CME president added. In terms of concerns on environmental impact that shale gas exploitation may have, Iulian Iancu specified that it seemed that such concern was amplified and maintained by certain factors of interest, respectively oil giants, which try to prevent each other in accessing the market. “In all discussions made so far – and I hope subsequently we will have additional information – the concern seems to be extrapolated by factors of interest – and here I refer strictly to oil giants -, which undermine each other’s entry in the market. It’s already known by the public, but there’s no official information, that there are millions of euros put at stake by a large energy player against the other large energy players, which joint shale gas exploitation, to create panic, emotion, concerns. These amounts are directed into a media manipulation, in an area that is not necessarily based on truth”, Iancu said. According to him, “we must eliminate these things, because they are beyond us, we are not part of this type of debate. We are interested to use in a safe manner and without environmental impact this type of energy, vital for the Romanian society and economy”, the Chairman of the Committee for Industries of the Chamber of Deputies stated. Regarding other countries, Iancu said that things were “nuanced”. “Here things are nuanced, Europe has an almost special regime. There are stats that have said “no”, such as France or Bulgaria, but France has a 70% nuclear share, for which Germany says “no” and this is why it is so worried. Thus, things are nuanced, but we must have the capacity to discern between threats and guarantees the element of truth, in order to be able to capitalize this resource”, Iulian Iancu concluded.

First step – exploration

In Romania a shale gas exploration activity could be performed, in order to know its stage, later following to start exploitation with the new technologies, Economy Minister Varujan Vosganian stated at a press conference. “Any action is economically efficient only if it has the environmental permits. In the case of shale gas we should have some elements, to see if the debate is worthwhile. We could conduct an exploration activity, to know what the situation is in Romania, so that, later, to start exploitation using the new technologies”, Vosganian stated. A shale gas exploration license does not mean an exploitation license, Minister Delegate for Energy Constantin Nita stated in turn. “We haven’t exploited anything. There’s only an exploration license, which does not mean exploitation. Let’s see first if we have gas and then figure out what to do with such resource. I’m not an expert, but I think that the U.S. also has waters and environment and NGOs. Haven’t they taken action against shale gas there? Our teams of specialists with the Academy, who are experts in the geological industry, should say if this fracturing method creates problems for the environment”, Nita stated. According to him, for the moment we cannot say why such exploration is not agreed. Over 7,000 citizens protested on Wednesday in Barlad against shale gas exploitation. The meeting was organized by the Civil Society Initiative Group in Barlad and gathered representatives of surrounding parishes, environmental activists, representatives of FC Vaslui gallery, but also citizens from Vaslui, Galati and Iasi counties, who are against shale gas exploitation by hydraulic fracturing by the U.S. company Chevron.[/cleeng_content]

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