Romania’s Natural Gas Reserves

Over the last 20 years, we have consumed nearly 400 billion metres of natural gas. Fortunately, consumption has been declining over the last couple of years, thus allowing us to benefit from our proven gas reserves for another decade.

The first natural gas exploitation in Romania appeared in 1909 by accident. A drill used to search for potash salts near Sarmasel failed to find any, but struck a gas deposit at a depth of 300 metres. 100 years later, Romania still has some reserves of traditional gasses that will last for a number of years, in a time when the race fro resources has become very intense.

Gas was first discovered in Transylvania which, at that time, was not a part of Romania, and therefore, in 1915, the Hungarian Methane Gas Company (UEG) was founded, whose largest shareholder would later become Deutsche Bank. After WWI and the unification of Romania began a complex process for taking over the shares of UEG, which ended in 1927 when SONAMETAN, a company created specifically for this purpose repurchased the stocks owned mostly by German and Hungarian shareholders. Only in 1991 appears the name of Romgaz, the successor of SONAMETAN.

Romgaz is a name which in Romania is synonymous with the exploitation of gas, being also the most important producer in the country. The gases produced by Romgaz cover more than half of Romania’s annual consumption, and the company holds most of the exploitation rights in our country and not only, because since 2008 Romgaz has rights and obligations in other exploitation perimeters – three in Slovakia and two in Poland.

The industrial consumers dominate the market

The natural gas consumption remains relatively constant, with a slight yearly decrease. Last year (2012), total consumption amounted to just under 14 billion cubic metres (CM), 4% lower than in 2011. The distribution of the final consumption remains constant too, nearly a quarter going to domestic consumers and the rest to industrial users (factories, thermal and power stations, etc.). In terms of energy, the total consumption of natural gas amounted to 144,65 million MWh, 114,78 million MWh going to industrial consumers (79,3%) and 29,87 million MWh to domestic consumers (20,7%).

A “paradox” becomes apparent when we notice that the number of domestic consumers is close to 3,02 millions (94,35% of the total number) and the non-domestic consumers are just 180.119 (5,65%), according to data provided by the National Energy Regulation Agency (ANRE). The “paradox” is found in the fact that most of the natural gas industry’s profit comes from less than 6% of its clients, whereas Romania has, according to INS, 5,1 million buildings and 8,5 million households.

Last year, around 75% of consumption was covered by domestic production (109,47 million MWh) and the rest of 35,18 MWh came from imports. The number of players in Romania’s natural gas market has been steadily increasing since the partial liberalisation of 2007, but the main producers remain Romgaz Medias and OMV Petrom, with a combined share of 97%.

Small reserves

The most important national distributors (out of a total of 39 authorised distributors) are Distrigaz Sud, with a 55,4% share last year and E.On Gaz, with 34%. Among the others, only Congaz has a market share of 4,05%, the rest falling below the 1% threshold. The structure of the consumption shows us that, in addition to domestic consumers, which use 20,65% of the gas, the chemical industry is a very important client, with a share of 20,49%, whereas other industries use 16,11%. 9% of the total consumption went to technological uses and commercial customers used 6,04%. The producers of electricity and heat with regulated consumption used together 23,74%.

The structure of the production presents a situation which favours internal consumption. Of course, it would be ideal to see an increase in domestic consumption and a more efficient use among industrial consumers, in order to increase the number of clients and not the volume consumed. Romania’s proven reserves were, at the end of 2012, estimated at 100 billion cubic metres, which could cover our consumption for the next decade (in its present structure). We are talking about conventional gas reserves and not about shale gas. The rhythm in which our reserves have been decreasing over the last 20 years is worrying though. In 1992, our proven reserves were 500 billion cubic metres, and ten years later, 300 billion cubic metres, according to data centralized by British Petroleum. Therefore, we have used around 200 billion cubic metres each decade and only the recent reduction in consumption (mostly in the industrial sector) allows us the “luxury” of having reserves for the next ten years (but in the current structure, with ¾ internal production and ¼ from imports).

This is the start of the problem concerning Romania’s energy independence and security. The risk of becoming dependent on imports is great, and the projects currently under development, such as those in the Black Sea are still far from being finalised or even capable of clearly determining the amount of usable reserves. OMV Petrom, in a partnership with Exxon Mobil, has discovered gas reserves of around 42 – 84 billion cubic metres in Romania’s Black Sea waters, but the real size of these reserves and, most importantly, the amount that can be exploited (only one in five gas wells is successful) are still unknown.

Until then, one solution for Romania to avoid being at the mercy of Russia is the interconnection with other gas producing countries, such as Azerbaijan or Kazakhstan. But the South Stream project, in which the Russians from Gazprom are heavily involved, will bypass our country, which means that the only way to access the gas from Azerbaijan remains through the AGRI project (Azerbaijan-Georgia-Romania Interconnector). The project has not begun yet and it is not known when and if it will ever start.

Nabucco was another important project and the main contender of South Stream. Unfortunately, the gas producers decided to use the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline in order to transport gas directly to Italy, which means that Nabucco, which would had passed through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, became useless.

Connecting to our neighbours for export.

For the time being, we put our hopes into AGRI, which would deliver gas via a pipeline to Georgia, where it would be liquefied at a terminal on the shore of the Black Sea and then shipped to Romania. But this project is not a certainty.

Meanwhile, Romania, through Transgaz, is looking for ways of interconnecting with neighbouring countries, more precisely, with Hungary, Bulgaria, the Republic of Moldova and Serbia. The connection with Bulgaria is almost complete. The pipeline will link Giurgiu and Ruse and will have a maximum annual capacity of 1,5 billion cubic metres, and a minimum capacity of 500 million cubic metres. The total length of the pipeline is 25 kilometres, 15,4 on the territory of Bulgaria, 5,2 in Romania and 4,14 under the Danube. The total value of this project, which should become operational early next year (in 2014) is 24 million Euros, Bulgaria contributing with 14 million Euros and Romania with 10 million. The project is also partly funded by the EU Commission, with 8,9 million Euros. Also at the beginning of 2014, the pipeline between Arad and Szeged should be finalised, a project worth 120 million Euros.

Romgaz, the main player in Romania’s gas market

  • One of Romgaz’s most important events in 2013 was its listing on the stock exchange. The initial public offer took place both in Bucharest and in London and was over-subscripted nearly five times, highlighting a strong interest form foreign investors.
  • With a final price of 30 Lei/share, Romgaz’s shares brought 1,7 billion Lei to the Ministry of Economy, which sold 15% of the shares it currently holds.
  • Investors from Romania, big and small, bought 40% of the shares offered for sale, and the rest, 60%, went to foreign institutional investors.
  • Romgaz currently operates 3257 production wells in 147 commercial gas deposits and 29 wells in 9 off-shore perimeters.
  • The company’s proven reserves are 62,1 billion cubic metres, with possible reserves of another 13,2 billion cubic metres. Romgaz has exploitation agreements for 9 on-shore perimeters with a total area of 17.650 square kilometres
  • In addition to being the largest gas storage operator in Romania, with a total volume of 2,76 cubic metres, Romgaz recently entered the energy generating sector, by acquiring the Iernut power plant, which has a capacity of 800 MW.

100 billion cubic metres – Romania’s proven reserves of natural gas, which will ensure our internal production for the following years.

“Romgaz must become a player in the Black Sea area and, why not, also in the shale gas sector”, Constantin Niță, delegated minister for the energy sector

This article first appeared in the Natural Resources – Gas supplement of Capital Magazine, which was distributed along with the printed edition of the 47th number of this publication between November 25th and December 1st 2013.


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Article written by Răzvan Mădălin Spiridon and translated by Mihail Andreas Mitoșeriu 

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