In Sunday’s general elections, Bulgaria’s Socialist party – which was instrumental in putting an outright ban on shale exploration in the country – was defeated by GERB; a centre right party.
The results of the general elections, which saw a number of centre right parties entering the new Parliament, may bring a wind of positive change for shale gas – Shale Gas Europe reports.
GERB and its potential coalition partners see energy security as one of the top priorities for the country in the immediate term. Delyan Dobrev, former Energy Minister and a member of GERB, has also recently stated that many things have changed since the shale-gas ban was originally introduced in Bulgaria in 2012, including the introduction of newer technologies.
There is a lot at stake when it comes to Bulgarian shale gas. In July this year Bulgarian Institute for Market Economics issued a report which estimated that shale gas exploration could introduce between 25,000 and 39,000 new jobs to Bulgaria’s economy, while another study estimated that shale exploration in Bulgaria could create as many as 300,000 new jobs. Bulgaria currently suffers from a 12 per cent unemployment rate.
Meanwhile, in an independent report, International Monetary Fund predicted that shale gas production in Bulgaria would accelerate the annual average economic growth rate by 0.6 per cent, or 238.4 million Euro per year and increase the GDP by 20 per cent in the long term. It is no wonder then, that industry groups such as The Bulgarian Mining Association have expressed their interest in lifting the ban.
Before any changes are initiated, however, GERB will need to build a majority government, entering into coalition with many different parties which have passed the four per cent threshold. This will most likely result in a fragmented Parliament. Forming a new government could take months and a lack of success might mean another round of elections.
Once this is done, however, it is highly likely that – with gaining energy independence from Russia high on everybody’s agenda – exploring Bulgaria’s estimated 17 trillion cubic feet of shale gas reserves will be a major priority.
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