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Fresh unconventional-gas find in Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s quest to boost domestic production of shale and conventional gas deposits has been given a lift by a fresh discovery, despite growing public opposition to shale-gas exploitation

LNG Energy said the Peshtene well, on the A-Lovech exploration licence, drilled to a depth of 3,190 metres in 56 days under a farm-in agreement with TransAtlantic Petroleum, has revealed gas shows consisting of methane, ethane and propane. The find was made in a 354 metre layer of a consolidated clay similar to shales, known as the Etropole argillite, which requires similar production techniques.

Analysis of the Etropole formation suggests a net pay of 114 metres. Further studies should be complete by the end of March. Peshtene should be completed and tested in the second quarter.

Over 289 metres of the Jurassic age Etropole and Ozirovo whole core has been taken from the well. The Ozirovo formation has yielded gas in the nearby Chiren field and in TransAtlantic's Deventsi R1 discovery well 36 km to the east, LNG Energy said.

Results so far have prompted TransAtlantic's subsidiary, Direct Petroleum Bulgaria, to apply for a production concession, which is expected to cover up to 1,600 square km for a 35-year period. Under the terms of LNG Energy’s farm-in, signed in mid-2011, the Canadian firm agreed to provide $7.5 million to drill the first well and said it would add a further $12.5 million to take a 50% stake in the project, if Direct Petroleum Bulgaria is awarded the production concession.

The government is keen to push ahead with shale drilling to reduce dependence on Russian gas imports. Most of the country’s gas production – around 1.27m cubic metres a day (cm/d) – comes from shallow, offshore Black Sea fields. Production started in late 2010.

But the government has been keen to stress – in the face of vociferous opposition – that it will only allow shale drilling to proceed if environmental studies show it is safe. Last month, energy minister Delyan Dobrev said Chevron, whose shale-drilling plans have caused most controversy, would commence operations in 2015, as long as the was no drilling moratorium in place. The supermajor plans to launch a public campaign in Bulgaria addressing safety issues.

The latest in a series of small-scale opposition protests in the city of Shumen, in northwest Bulgaria, near Chevron’s concession. According to the Novinite news agency, over 1,500 people in Shumen – which has a population of around 80,000 – have signed an anti-shale drilling petition since December. There have also been sporadic protests in the capital Sofia and elsewhere.

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