Shale gas exploration could introduce more than 25,000 new jobs to Bulgaria’s economy, with as many as 39,000 new jobs predicted if full production potential is realized – according to estimates from Bulgarian Institute for Market Economics.
Despite being almost wholly dependent on Russia for its natural gas needs, Bulgaria is one of several European countries with a moratorium banning hydraulic fracturing. Despite that, the debate on shale exploration in Bulgaria is still very much open. Early in June, the country’s environment minister claimed that the fracking ban is only a temporary measure.
Also around this time, Atanas Georgiev – assistant professor of economics at Sofia University – spent a month researching the economic impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling in Allegheny and Washington counties. By the end of his stay, he concluded that natural gas drilling in Bulgaria would “definitely be beneficial” from an economic perspective.
Georgiev quoted the lack of financial incentive for landowners on whose land shale gas is discovered as the biggest obstacle for shale exploration in Bulgaria, saying: “The biggest difference between the States and Bulgaria is the way mineral resources are managed. Here, as I understand, most of the people who own the land own the mineral resources below the surface. In Bulgaria, all the mineral resources are owned by the state.”
Lesser, but nonetheless important obstacles would include: weak enforcement of environmental regulations, outdated drilling technology and the emigration of engineers to countries offering higher-paying jobs.
Georgiev said shale could help Bulgaria achieve independence from Russia, create jobs and generate taxes and now the IME seems to agree.
By embracing shale exploration, the IME report predicts that Bulgaria could significantly improve its domestic energy landscape and reduce unemployment. According to the report, shale gas production in Bulgaria would accelerate the annual average economic growth rate by 0.6 %, or 238.4 million Euro per year and increase the GDP by 20% in the long term.
Bulgaria’s Economy and Energy Minister has suggested that the country’s shale gas resources could be in the range of 11 to 35 Tcf.
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