17 October 2013, News Wires – Chevron has suspended work at what would be its first shale well in Romania after protesters blocked access to the drill site and the local town called a vote on the company’s activities, reports have said.
Situated in the Barlad concession near the northeastern village of Silistea, the maiden probe had been due to spud before the end of the year.
“Chevron can today confirm it has suspended activities in Silistea, Pungesti commune, Vaslui county,” the company told Reuters.
Hundreds of demonstrators have staged protests at the drill site in recent days flanked by dozens of police officers.
On Monday some protesters mounted a human chain to prevent vehicles from accessing the site.
The suspension comes after Pungesti local council decided earlier on Thursday to hold a non-binding referendum on 24 November on whether local residents would support Chevron’s shale exploration.
The supermajor said it was “committed to building constructive and positive relationships with the communities where we operate”, and vowed to continue dialogue with locals, regulators and the public at large.
The US supermajor gained approval earlier this year to drill exploratory wells in the protest-hit area, and also holds rights to explore three blocks near the Black Sea spanning 670,000 acres.
Thousands of people have rallied across Romania in recent months to protest government backing for shale gas exploration as well as plans for a new large-scale gold mining project.
Romania’s leftist government led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta had initially opposed shale gas when it took power in May 2012, vowing to institute a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.
However, the administration has since reversed this policy, becoming a supporter of shale exploration because of the potential economic benefits from any major discovery.