Bulgaria will finalize shale gas exploration talks with US Chevron and seal a contract in the next few days, Energy Minister Traicho Traikov has announced.
Traikov participated Tuesday in a discussion on shale gas exploration and production in Bulgaria.
The Energy Minister revealed that auctions for new exploration blocks in North Bulgaria were forthcoming.
In end-May, US energy giant Chevron won a shale gas drilling permit in Novi Pazar, Northeast Bulgaria, with a EUR 30 M bid. British company BNK Petroleum, which also took part in the competition, was ranked second.
The prospect of shale gas exploration in the region has eliciting clashing reactions from energy experts, politicians, and the local population.
Locals remain divided, some of them highlighting environmental concerns while others defend the favorable business climate.
Experts themselves fail to agree on the benefits of shale gas fracturing.
Traikov boasted Tuesday that the tender documentation envisaged a minimum bonus of EUR 200 000 for the five-year exploratory period.
Bids for the other two shale gas deposits would be submitted by end-June, Traikov specified.
According to preliminary estimates of the companies which applied for the Novi Pazar block, total reserves of shale ghas come in at 300 bcm - 1 trillion cu m.
Traikov assured that the exploration works did not pose environmental risks, adding that an environmental impact assessment would be drawn up before the launch of the production process.
"Shale gas exploration in no way differs from natural gas exploration", the minister insisted.
Energy Minister Traikov and Environment Minister Karadzhova agreed that an environmental impact assessment was not required for exploration, unlike the case with production.
If the production stage were reached, Karadzhova explained, the overall project of the company would also be examined for compatibility with Natura 2000 requirements.
"If the production stage is reached, this could fetch tens of millions in concession fees per year. I think it is reasonable to check if we can use this resource, regardless of the long-term perspective", Traikov said.
Under Bulgarian legislation, 50% of the concession fees remain at the disposal of the local administration.