Bulgaria’s Parliament decided on October 10 to extend by six months the term of the ad hoc committee tasked with investigating the safety of shale gas exploration.
Committee chairperson Dian Chervenkondev said that the committee needed more time to take in the large amount of documentation amassed after making inquiries about regulatory practices in other European Union countries, US, Canada and Ukraine.
He said that the committee had spent no money since it was set up in April, but it would be useful for the committee members to travel to the US, where shale gas is extracted on large scale, and Poland, where prospecting is under way, in order to get a better picture of the issues.
“There is a lot of theory and many documents, but if you want us to do something right, it would be good to see it on-site. If Parliament decides not to vote a budget, we will go where we’ve gone so far – nowhere,” Chervenkondev was quoted as saying by news website mediapool.bg.
The committee was set up on April 4 with the immediate task of amending the wording of a moratorium passed by Parliament in January that effectively banned all oil and gas exploration in the country.
At that time, following a series of protest rallies, MPs passed the moratorium that moratorium on shale gas exploration that also banned any oil and gas drilling at pressures above 20 atmospheres. This drew immediate criticism from the oil and gas industry because it effectively banned any drilling at depths below 200m.
The moratorium was amended in mid-June, removing the limitation on drilling at pressures above 20 atmospheres, but explicitly banning the use of hydro-fracturing (fracking) technology in oil and gas prospecting and extraction.
Since then, the committee has focused its efforts on gathering information on best industry practices and is expected, as per its mandate, to make a recommendation that could either ban shale gas exploration, maintain the moratorium in place or suggest the drafting legislative changes to contain any risks related to shale gas exploration.
(Marcellus Shale rig and gas well operation in Scott township, Lawrence county in Pennsylvania, US. Photo: wcn247/flickr.com)