Bulgaria has an official ban for shale gas exploration and extraction made by the Parliament on 18th of January 2012. The same decision was strengthened on 14th of June by the Parliament in the most important point number 1 -> Now, official ban of all the unconventional gas and oil.
Beginning of 2012, under the huge pressure from the civil society, the Bulgarian Parliament voted in favour of a ban on the shale gas exploration and extraction.
Just a month after the ban, the Parliament established a temporary commission for ”good practices in the mining sector”, created with the idea to change the moratorium (argued that the point 1 is in fact ban of extraction of the conventional gas). After four months and only two sessions of the commission, only one decision was taken, concerning a new text for the point 1, which was in fact an ‘open door’ for fracking.
One month later, the draft couldn’t reach the Parliament because of the disagreement between the commission and the civil society.
On the 13th of June, the draft was put it in the next day parliamentarian session. The civil society immediately reacted and demanded strong changes, while thousands of activists blocked the main street of the capital, as a reaction of the new forestry act. The ruling party was under pressure. The situation convinced the Parliament to vote this final text for the point 1:
“Prohibited the application of the technology of hydraulic rupture / fracking / or any other technology which pressed a mixture of fluids (gels or liquefied gas), chemical additives and / or fluid, mechanical and / or organic fillers in drilling wells causing the creation of new formation and / or expansion of existing natural cracks or fissure systems in all sedimentary formations, including coal seams for exploration and production of oil and natural gas.”
In other words, the Bulgarian Parliament a text literally banning all kinds of unconventional gas and oil extraction, as any extraction of unconventional gas generates new formation and / or expansion of existing natural cracks or fissure systems.
Final text of the Bulgarian law banning the extraction of unconventional gas and oil:
REPUBLIC OF BULGARIA – 41ST NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
for ban on the application of the hydraulic fracturing technology for exploration and/or extraction of gas and oil on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria
The National Assembly, pursuant to art. 86, par. 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria and art. 78 of the Interior regulations for the organization and the work of the National Assembly and proceeding from the principle of precaution regarding the protection of public health and the environment
(1. Prohibits the application of the hydraulic fracturing technology, hydrofracking, fracking and/or any other possible term describing the injection of a mixture of water and other fluid or gel-like substances with chemical compounds, elements or components, propants, fluids, propane, as well as mechanical and/or organic fillers, at a pressure larger than 20 atmospheres under the earth for exploration and/or extraction with the aim to extract and produce oil or natural gas on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria)
- Prohibited the application of the technology of hydraulic rupture / fraking / or any other technology which pressed a mixture of fluids (gels or liquefied gas), chemical additives and / or fluid, mechanical and / or organic fillers in drilling wells causing the creation of new formation and / or expansion of existing natural cracks or fissure systems in all sedimentary formations, including coal seams for exploration and production of oil and natural gas.
- Prohibits the extraction of shale gas on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria using the technology described in Art. 1.
- Prohibits the field explorations for the tracing down of deposits or opportunities for extraction of oil and natural gas on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, which apply the method of hydraulic fracturing, any methods corresponding to the ones described in Art. 1 or any similar methods.
- All exploratory and extractive activities planning to use the technology described in Art. 1 or any similar technology need to be immediately ceased, as of the date of the promulgation of this decision. The offenders will be sanctioned with a fine of 100,000,000 BGN.
- All physical persons and/or legal entities that have received an exploration permit or a concession for the extraction of oil and gas and are affected by the current ban, are given a period of 3 months, as of the date this decision enters into force, during which time they have to submit for approval their revised working projects which have to exclude the prohibited methods.
- The subjects mentioned in Art.5 that do not submit their new working projects before the deadline or submit projects that do not fulfill the requirements of this decision lose the rights that have granted to them with the respective permit or concession, and they will have no right of compensation.
- Prohibits the issuing of licenses, the conclusion of concession and other contracts, as well as the performing of any legal or factual activities in violation of the current Decision.
- The ban is not imposed upon R&D explorations which fulfill all of the following conditions: are made by independent scientific organizations, don’t have a business/trade purpose, have a purpose to study the risks from the extraction of oil and natural gas and do not use the prohibited method of hydraulic fracturing or similar methods.
- The current ban is termless and is in force for the whole territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, including the aquatory of the Black Sea.
- The control on the application of this decision is assigned to the Council of Ministers.
- The decision enters into force as of the date of its promulgation in the State Gazette.
The decision is adopted by the Forty-first National Assembly on 18 January 2012, changed on 14 June 2012 and is stamped with the official stamp of the National Assembly.
More generally speaking, the current situation in Bulgaria concerning fracking and the gas&oil industry can be clarified as follow:
- Lack of monitoring bodies and mechanisms: No control at all while two wells could potentially violate the decision of the Parliament. Lack of capacity of the official control body. Only 4 persons are responsible for the whole country and are the same people that grant permit’s licences to the oil&gas companies;
- Lack of definitions, and especially for ‘unconventional’ fossil sources. No such a words in the legislation like shale gas, CBM, fracking, CSG, tar sands etc. Lack of definitions concerning the technologies as well;
- The Government still gives permits to different energy companies for exploration of oil & gas (together) that potentially include unconventional fossil sources, despite the current ban;
- There are some political groups and lobbies that are keeping pressure on the political level and making propaganda through the media;
- Experts are divided between the two sides, but the most influential ones are pro-fracking;
- The civil society is still awake on the issue and ready for new actions if needed;
- Given the upcoming elections next year, the government is scared to move on the fracking file;
- Huge capacity and experience on the legal, civil and expertise level which can be used and shared with other country anti-fracking groups.