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Romania Ends Moratorium on Shale Gas Exploration, Premier Says

Romania ended a moratorium on shale gas exploration in a bid to boost domestic energy resources and curb reliance on fuel imports from Russia.

It may take four to five years to assess potential volumes, Prime Minister Victor Ponta said in an interview broadcast live on Adevarul’s website today. Exploration will start in Vaslui in the east and may extend to the southeastern county of Constanta.

“The moratorium ended in December and hasn’t been extended,” Ponta said in his first public announcement of the decision. “If shale gas is found in Romania, I’m convinced that technology will advance so much in four or five years that it will practically ensure the release of all the regular environmental permits.”

The extraction of shale gas requires hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves blasting rock with water, sand and chemicals to open up fissures. Concerns among environmental groups, regulators and landowners that fracking may contaminate water have led France and Bulgaria to ban the practice. Chevron Corp. (CVX) of the U.S. owns exploration licenses in Romania.

Ponta’s cabinet imposed the moratorium last May pending the completion of European environmental studies. The drilling technique is already employed in the U.S., allowing the country to surpass Russia as the biggest gas producer.

Chevron plans to start the search for shale resources at its Barlad concession, according to a report in Ziarul Financiar. Greenpeace last year threatened to sue the government for allowing the company to explore for shale gas, citing potential harm to the environment and local residents.

To contact the reporter on this story: Irina Savu in Bucharest at isavu@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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