The state of Shale in Europe: Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine

Eastern Europe, excluding Poland, has significant prospective shale gas and oil resources, according to the EIA. These exist in three sedimentary basins: the Dniepr-Donets Basin, the Carpathian Foreland Basin and the Moesian Platform. Dniepr-Donets Basin is a well-defined Late Paleozoic basin in eastern Ukraine and southern Belarus, containing prospective organic-rich Carboniferous black shale. The Carpathian Foreland Basin is a deep Paleozoic belt that stretches from southwestern Ukraine through northern Romania to the Black Sea. The Moesian Platform stretches across Romania and Bulgaria and contains Silurian and Jurassic black shale, although the EIA says these are less well defined than the other two basins.

The EIA estimates the total risked, technically-recoverable shale resource for these three basins at 195 Tcf of shale gas and 1.6 billion barrels of shale oil and condensate. While shale exploration is underway in both Ukraine and Romania, Bulgaria currently has a moratorium on shale gas drilling – although the country’s environment minister claimed in early June that this is just a temporary measure. Public opposition to shale gas development in Bulgaria is significant, being led by environmental organizers and with no effective counter-balancing information campaign from the petroleum industry, according to the EIA. In January, the Bulgarian government banned all shale gas exploration and production, whether or not it involves hydraulic fracturing. Bulgaria’s Economy and Energy Minister has suggested that the country’s shale gas resources could be in the range of 11 to 35 Tcf.

Romania had an informal shale gas ban in place from May 2012 but the country’s government has since become a supporter of the industry, recognizing the potential economic benefit that could arise from a shale gas industry. In July of this year, U.S. oil major Chevron won the right to drill shale gas exploration wells in three areas in eastern Romania.

In the Ukraine, which welcomes investment to develop its shale resources, the Ukraine State Service of Geology and Mineral Resources estimates the country has shale gas resources of 247 Tcf. However, the EIA has noted that the basis for this estimate has not been released and that the figure actually includes some tight gas resources. In January, Ukraine awarded its first shale gas production sharing agreement, signing a deal with Royal Dutch Shell plc at the World Economic Forum gathering at Davos, Switzerland. Shell’s 50-year PSA permit at Yuzovska in the eastern Dniepr-Donets Basin covers an area of approximately 3,000 square miles, according to the EIA.

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