Bulgaria needs to put some serious consideration into diversifying its energy sources, according to US ambassador to Sofia James Warlick. Speaking in an interview for nationally-aired BTV channel Sunday evening ahead of the visit of Russian PM Vladimir Putin next Saturday, Warlick stated that this need not come at the expense of good ties with Russia.
Nevertheless, it is in Bulgaria’s interest to have own sources of energy, said the US diplomat, pointing out in particular shale gas and the interest of oil and gas giant Chevron in exploring. “Chevron has been expressing a strong interest in exploring for shale gas since May, and it is still waiting to receive a permit,” complained Warlick, counseling the Bulgarian cabinet to extend the permit as soon as possible.
As things stand, Bulgarian legislation, in particular the Law on Underground Resources, requires that permits for exploration for oil and gas be issued after a formal contest and cannot just be granted at will. According to Warlick, Chevron’s own estimates are that some 20-25 B cubic meters of shale gas might be lying untapped in Bulgaria, which would satisfy domestic demand for some 7 years.
The US diplomat advised Bulgaria to take advantage of the new opportunities that shale gas gives, which could transform the local gas market as they have already done in the States. Saturday Russian PM Putin and Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov are expected to discuss major joint energy projects, such as the South Stream natural gas pipeline and the Belene NPP. James Warlick had formally presented Chevron’s interest at a special event featuring executives of the US company itself in July.