Chevron, the US-based oil major, suffered a setback in its effort to start seeking shale gas in Romania, after several hundred protesters descended on the entrance of its survey site in Eastern Romania.
According to Mediafax newswire, some 500 protesters gathered for a third day in a row outside the locality of Silistea, in Vaslui County. They attempted to block the access of equipment on the piece of land where Chevron plans to place its first exploration rig.
Radu Renga, the prefect of Vaslui County, sent over 200 gendarmes in the locality to displace protesters, arguing he follows the rule of law. Two protesters fainted during clashes with the police force and several others were able to breach the checkpoint of the gendarmes and get into Chevron’s site.
Chevron pulled out his specialists from the exploration site since Monday, when people took to the streets. People expressing their anger at the company were joined the next day by four priests.
The oil major is the first betting on Romanian shale gas, controlling four concessions in the Moldova and Dobrogea regions. Energy specialists and policy makers say that explorations works take at least three years.
The Ministry of Environment said in a statement this May that shale gas explorations don’t involve fracking, the technique of pumping a mix of water, sand and chemical at high pressure underground to crack shale formations. Environmentalists claim fracking pollutes underground water sources and produces earthquakes.
Chevron is currently working to get the full permitting on three more perimeters in Vaslui County.
The government had put an informal ban of shale gas last year, which was lifted this year after PM Ponta argued that shale gas developments compliant with EU environmental standards contribute to Romania’s energy security.
The PM said shale gas is one of the avenues that can help the country cut its reliance on expensive Russian gas imports, along with offshore gas and oil.
The US Energy Information Administration said in a report published this June that Romania has enough shale gas for 100 years.
The EU Parliament proposed last week tighter environmental standards for new shale gas projects, in the face of growing concerns over fracking.
France, Bulgaria and the Netherlands are some of the EU members that banned shale gas developments.