Following the announcements made by Chevron in recent months regarding its decision to abandon projects inLithuania, Poland and then Ukraine, Romania was the last European barricade for the company.
On Friday, a Chevron representative said in London, commenting on the recent decisions to withdraw from thethree aforementioned countries “That leaves Romania, where we are in the process of relinquishing our concession interests”. The spokesman did not say why Chevron was giving up the Romanian concessions, which only leaves room for speculation. Romanian activists know that the announcement looks simply too good to be true, especially after the serious conflicts in Pungești and the fierce defence that the Romanian state has pledged to offer to shale gas companies in Romania, despite strong opposition.
An official announcement from Chevron has yet to be made while the status of the four licences they hold inRomania remains uncertain. When some companies departed from Poland, others bought the mineral rights from the outgoing company.
In Romania, the fight against fracking continues, as Chevron is the first company to announce its withdrawal from the country. Some 43 other companies still hold valid permits – whose target is not known due to abusive non-disclosure clauses in the contracts.
Yet, there are various places in Romania where wells are being drilled, some with flaring activities, some withsevere water contamination issues on the border with both Hungary and Serbia, in the municipality of Beba Veche and the surrounding municipalities – with the authorities stating, without pointing to any studies that the cause is natural). And on top of that, there has been widespread seismic testing taking place across the Romanian countryside in recent years, which can only leave one thinking that there is enough information to support such a massive effort in investigating the hydrocarbon potential.
Furthermore, another 38 new licences are about to be granted by the National Agency for Mineral Resources – championing the lack of transparency among Romanian authorities – which has turned all the information the Agency was dealing into job secrets, by means of an abusive document issued by the director of the Agency.
Chevron’s departure leaves Romanian campaigners, who are taking into account all the previous information, in astate of shock, since Chevron had only drilled one well in one of its four licence areas, which is definitely notsufficient to assess the potential of shale gas in Romania.
In fact, for the anti-fracking campaign in Romania, Chevron’s move leaves activists without an official target, as officially, there was only Chevron exploring for shale gas. Yet, those opposing fracking know that Chevron’s departure signifies just a minor victory, but definitely not winning the war against fracking. They are, in fact, suspecting the fact that behind Chevron’s move, there will be more companies drilling undisturbed to identify shale gas potential, unaccounted for, such as OMV Petrom, Halliburton, Hunt Oil, Panfora Oil, NIS Petrol, Romgaz, away from a public that has received the piece of news it has longed to hear – Chevron leaving Romania.
With a very untransparent bureaucracy when dealing with civil society issues and much exploration still taking place around the country, despite the oil price crisis, Romanians are rather reserved when assessing the news ofChevron’s withdrawal, knowing that there is much to be done in order to stop fracking in Romania and acrossEurope, especially with a very frack friendly European Commission and its Energy and Climate Change Commissioner, Spain’s Cañete, coming from the oil and gas industry.