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Chevron lobbies Bulgaria to overturn frack ban

Chevron is trying to convince the Bulgarian government to overturn a ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) imposed earlier this year on the back of  environmental concerns

“Bulgaria came under a lot of environmental pressure. Our job is to better educate, which is what we need to do,” Ian MacDonald, Chevron vice president of Europe, Eurasia, and Middle East exploration and production, said. “You could [start] drilling in Bulgaria, but you’re not going to if you can’t take it to the next stage. Why spend the money?”

Last year, Chevron was awarded a five-year exploration licence for the Novi Pazar block. The block could hold as much as 10 billion cubic metres (cm) of gas. If Chevron was to start producing gas in Bulgaria, it would come in direct competition with Gazprom as Bulgaria relies heavily on Russian imports. In 2010, Bulgaria imported 2.16 billion cm of gas from Russia versus 2.17 billion cm of consumption.

Primed to frack

Chevron could also start fracking Polish shale gas wells next year after finishing conventional drilling tests. Chevron holds around 2 million acres in the Grabowiec, Krasnik, Frampol, and Zwierzyniec concessions in southern Poland and started drilling tests late last year. “The next stage is at some point to do a horizontal frack. The danger in jumping in too quickly is you mess up the horizontal testing and cloud the whole thing,” MacDonald said. “There’s enough to keep us interested from what we’ve seen so far. We’ve only just started.”

Assessing the shale-gas potential of both its Polish and Bulgarian holdings could take at least two years, he said, but added  if significant volumes of shale gas was found, then it could be developed “fairly rapidly”.

In the US, MacDonald said that unconventional oil production, mostly from the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale plays – which climbed to over 500,000 barrels a day (b/d) this year – would only affect regional markets because of low volumes.

“You have to remember that the US consumes 20 million b/d of oil, so it’s important to WTI crude prices, but it’s not that impactful. And I don’t particularly see tight oil becoming that impactful globally because I just don’t think there are the volumes to really make that much of a difference,” he said.

US unconventional oil production has soared in the last few years, which could lead to a transformation of the crude markets, according to the International Energy Agency.


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