On the wild beach of Vadu, tourists come to enjoy the freshness of the Romanian coast, far from the seaside resort of Constanta, the big city further south. In the middle of this sandy landscape, a new construction made of pipes and a filiform chimney has come out of the ground in recent months. This gas treatment station will be connected by a 120 kilometer gas pipeline to the Ana maritime platform, from which gas will be extracted from this summer.
This project is led by Black Sea Oil and Gas (BSOG), a Romanian company whose main shareholders are the American group Carlyle and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. More than 370 million euros have been invested to extract natural gas for ten years. BSOG hopes to obtain one billion cubic meters of gas per year, or 10% of Romania’s annual consumption.
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In 2021, Turkey discovered 540 billion cubic meters of gas in its Black Sea waters, an amount that would supply the country’s needs for thirty years. Mining would start by early 2023, reducing the country’s dependence on Russia and Azerbaijan. Romania also has significant deposits of 60 to 80 billion cubic meters in its Neptun perimeter.
Since 2018, its investments have however been hampered by the “offshore” law, which in particular obliges it to sell half of the production on the national market. The American Exxon, which shared 50% of the Neptun perimeter with the Romanian-Austrian company OMV Petrom, has decided to withdraw from the project in 2021. Romgaz, a Romanian national company, will buy back its shares for 1 billion dollars.
20% of imported gas
Until then, Romania could boast of being one of the most energy-independent EU states, along with Estonia and Sweden. This thanks to an energy mix that combines hydroelectricity, coal, wind, nuclear and, above all, a long tradition of gas and oil production. Less than 5% of its gas consumption was imported from Russia, thanks to resources on land, in Transylvania, and in the fields already exploited in the Black Sea.
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In the space of a few years, gas imports have increased, not only because of a process of gradual exit from coal, which covered 16% of energy needs in 2018, “but also with the entry into force of the “offshore” law, which prevented new investments and modernizations in onshore and offshore operations, says Ana Otilia Nutu, energy specialist for the think tank Expert Forum. Today, the country imports almost 20% of its gas. »
Safety and ecological barriers
Gas in the Black Sea is back in focus as war rages in neighboring Ukraine. Reducing dependence on Russian gas is becoming a priority and an amended version of the “offshore” law was tabled in the Romanian Parliament on April 15, reducing certain constraints. The obligation to sell on the Romanian market has thus increased to 40% of production.
“Gas from the Black Sea could also enable Romania to export to Bulgaria, Moldova and elsewhere, says Iulia-Sabina Joja, security expert in the Black Sea region for the Washington-based Middle East Institute. However, the tensions and the risk of military accidents prevailing there could delay investments. »
For Otilia Nutu, another obstacle concerns the energy transition: “The gas is a fossil fuel and the extraction will only last a few years. » According to her, Romania should invest more in the long term in renewable energies, storage and energy efficiency, “which is far from being the case today. »