Shale Gas Ban Will Be Reexamined – Bulgarian Energy Minister

Business » ENERGY | April 2, 2012, Monday // 12:21
Bulgaria: Shale Gas Ban Will Be Reexamined – Bulgarian Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev, Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism, has said that a parliamentary committee will be set up to examine the environmental impact of shale gas activities. Photo by BGNES

The case of shale gas development cannot be considered closed in Bulgaria, according to Energy and Economy Minister Delyan Dobrev.

In a Friday interview for the morning broadcast of the Bulgarian National Television (BNT), Dobrev announced that a parliamentary committee would be set up this week to review the shale gas moratorium.

The Energy Minister explained that the ban on hydraulic fracturing could be revoked if the ad hoc committee declared the technology harmless.

"If it turns out that shale gas is not harmful to the environment and the environmental impact assessment (EIA) comes out positive, then we should really take advantage of it," Dobrev stated.

Following mass protests, Bulgaria's Parliament imposed an indefinite ban on shale gas extraction and production through the method of hydraulic fracturing on January 18.

Regarding last weeks' talks in Moscow, Dobrev said that the negotiations were characterized by a positive tone and had brought excellent results for Bulgaria.

He admitted that the talks with Russia had been "neither easy, not that much difficult", adding that his anxiety about the event had been unnecessary.

Dobrev made it clear that Bulgaria wished to steer clear of long-term gas supply contracts with Moscow so as to avoid a prolonged dependence on Gazprom.

The Energy Minister expressed hopes that the anticipated reduction of prices of natural gas in Bulgaria would be achieved.

Upon returning from Moscow, Dobrev stated Friday that Russia had agreed on the 11% discount on gas tariffs in exchange for the fast-track implementation of the South Stream project.

In his Monday, Dobrev claimed that Bulgaria would gain an estimated EUR 150 M per year in transit fees from the South Stream gas pipeline.

Commenting on Bulgaria's withdrawal from the Belene NPP project, the Energy Minister noted that the issue of Bulgaria paying penalties had not been brought up during the talks with Russian Deputy Minister Igor Sechin ha

Asked about whether Russia had brought up the issue of penalties over Bulgaria's withdrawal from the Belene NPP project, the Energy Minister confirmed that the talks with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin.

"The conversation started with a reminder that we attended the talks between Prime Ministers Borisov and Putin, who agreed that we would reach a friendly settlement without going to court or arguing over penalties, which means that what is left for us is to iron out the details on our withdrawal from the project," Bulgaria's Energy Minister stated.

He explained that the exact sum Bulgaria would have to pay to Russia for the expenses incurred on the project would be clear in April.

"I do not expect any surprises whatsoever. We are involved in two arbitration proceedings, one of them opened by Bulgaria against Atomstroyexport and the other one filed by Atomstroyexport against the National Electric Company (NEK). We need to reach an agreement on these two cases," Dobrev said.

As regards the already assembled reactor for the Belene NPP, the Energy Minister was positive that there would be a seventh unit of the Kozloduy NPP.

"There is a technical opportunity to use the reactor earmarked for the Belene NPP, which was confirmed by Rosatom. It will take slightly more time to implement than the Belene NPP project," Dobrev added.

He insisted that the top priority of the center-right GERB government in the sphere of energy was the extension of the life of Units 5 and 6 of the Kozloduy NPP.

Dobrev noted that the life of Units 5 and 6 of the Kozloduy NPP could be extended by 20 years, adding that there was also an option for launching an eight unit at the plant.

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Tags: Delyan Dobrev, Economy and Energy Minister, shale gas, Belene NPP, Kozloduy NPP, nuclear reactor, natural gas, Gazprom, Atomstroyexport, Rosatom, Igor Sechin, penalties

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