The wave of emotion surrounding the natural gas explorations in the county of Vaslui led to the suspension of the operations set up by the American company Chevron in the commune of Pungesti. The protesters celebrate their victory, whereas the oil and gas industry analyses the impact of this case and the precedent it could set. Three renowned experts in economy and mining industry let the emotions aside and focused on the arguments on Friday in a special TV show aired on The Money Channel, the only Romanian business TV channel.
The environmental risks are grossly exaggerated
The risks associated with the shale gas exploration have nothing to do with the rumours spreading at a breakneck pace, lecturer Radu Dudau said. “Waters are not poisoned, neither are the grass-plots, agricultural lands or forests, perceptible earthquakes do not occur for this reason.” Radu Dudau said that the statistics of a study conducted by MIT in 2011 showed that out of 20,000 shale gas wells examined between 2005 and 2009, only 20 caused the contamination of underground waters. This is a rate of one in 100 that takes into consideration the early explorations included, operated by smaller and more adventurous companies, under a much looser supervision. The technology has improved at a rapid pace over the last decades, with critical situations being much more unlikely today, despite the fact they cannot be avoided entirely.
In addition, Romania enforces the European environmental standards, some of the world’s most stringent standards. The problem is that there is no institution in Romania enjoying the citizens’ confidence.
Romania has experience in hydraulic fracturing technology
Many of those expressing their opinion on shale gas exploration have no education whatsoever and no qualification in this field. The majority of the Romanian experts in this domain agree with the exploration of all the estimated resources of natural gas, as well as with the exploration of confirmed resources by observing the safety requirements. Professor Nicolae Antonescu, honorary rector at the Ploiesti Oil and Gas University, made a thorough presentation about the technologies used to identify and explore the shale gas. More precisely, he said that the fracturing method has been used for many years in Romania as far as certain deposits are concerned. The expert said there is no reason to believe that earthquakes could intensify as a result of this method, because the impact of underground drillings is barely perceptible at the surface, only by sensors located near the working area.
Nicolae Antonescu also tackled the myth of the 900 chemical substances injected in the ground: „The materials used are water, sand or ceramic granules, and only one chemical substance, the one appropriate for the type of rock we need to fracture. The mining industry uses hundreds of substances, but only one for each exploration.”
The economic arguments should prevail
We should produce before consuming, economy professor Cristian Paun (the Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest) has stressed. The industrial production, no matter the type, poses environmental risks or even costs. The decision on the exploration or exploitation has to be rational, has to take into consideration both the opportunities Romania provides – the tradition in the oil industry, infrastructure and skilled workforce, as well as the investor’s contribution: capital, technology, specific know-how.
In the opinion of Professor Paun, one of the problems arising today is a consequence of the property regime in Romania. If the underground resources would have been owned by the Pungesti residents, they had been probably more interested in the advantages resulting from the natural gas exploration in their region. But the state is the owner, so our only option is to trust that our experts have determined the correct value of royalties and the other advantages for Romania (fees, labour taxes etc). Besides the direct revenues, it’s important that our industry remains attractive to the large global companies, when compared to other areas such as Ukraine, Poland, Iraq or Russia.