Political posturing in Romania appears to be a barrier to shale gas production in the country just before the second round of presidential elections to be held on Sunday November 16.
Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta said last Sunday that Romania does not have shale gas reserves, however, American energy major Chevron's announcement on Monday contradicted Ponta and announced that it has yet to conclude an assessment on Romania's shale gas potential.
According to a 2013 report by U.S. Energy Information Administration, a study on the technically recoverable shale oil and shale gas resources, Romania holds 1,400 billion cubic meters of technically recoverable shale gas resources and ranks third in Europe in terms of potential shale gas after France and Poland - both who rank first followed by Norway.
It is estimated that the potential shale gas could meet the country's domestic demand for about a century, according to the energy agency.
"We must read the Prime Minister's recent statement in an electoral context. We have one week left before the second round of the presidential elections and the stakes are high," said Eugeina Gusilov, director of the Romanian Energy Center, an energy studies think tank based in Romania.
She said the Prime Minister's statement was directed mostly at a domestic audience as an attempt to win over some of the voters going to the poles this Sunday by downplaying the shale gas topic.
Romania's Social Democratic Party came to power in 2012 on an anti-shale gas platform which was widely supported by the public at the time. Therefore, such a message could have some electoral value before this week's runoff, according to Gusilov.
"Chevron is analyzing the data gathered during its drilling and seismic operations to further understand the resource potential of natural gas from shale. When the analysis has been completed, the results will be provided to the National Agency of Mineral Resources and will remain in the state’s custody," Chevron spokesperson told The Anadolu Agency.
Gusilov also said only one well was drilled so far and the assessment by Chevron has not been presented yet.
"It may be premature to draw such a pessimistic conclusion, even if the results which are not publicly known yet, may not be up to initial expectations," she added.
Chevron completed exploratory drilling in early 2014 in Pungesti, a village in the east of the country but with some delays due to public protest.
By Nuran Erkul