Chevron halts Romania shale work after protest

Sat Dec 7, 2013 9:54am EST
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* Residents oppose shale exploration

* Protesters and riot police turn out in equal numbers

* Romania holds estimated 51 trln cubic feet of shale gas

By Bogdan Cristel

PUNGESTI, Romania, Dec 7 (Reuters) - U.S. oil major Chevron halted exploration works for shale gas in eastern Romania for the second time in two months on Saturday after anti-fracking protesters broke through wire mesh fences around the site.

Thousands of people have rallied across Romania in recent months to protest against government support for shale gas exploration and separate plans to set up Europe's largest open cast gold mine in a small Carpathian town.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates Romania could potentially hold 51 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, which would cover domestic demand for more than a century.

Chevron won approval to drill exploratory wells in the small town of Pungesti in the impoverished county of Vaslui in October but had to halt work soon after when residents blocked access to the site. It resumed work on Dec. 2.

On Saturday, about 300 riot police were deployed in Pungesti, 340 km (210 miles) northeast of capital Bucharest, to try to prevent an equal number of protesters, mostly local residents, from entering the Chevron site. Some broke through into the site, however.   Continued...