Protesters at OMV Petrom HQ in Bucharest, Romania; Source: Greenpeace

Protesters against Black Sea gas project dub new drilling operations ‘the last thing the world needs’

Greenpeace activists have held a rally at the headquarters of South-Eastern Europe’s integrated energy company OMV Petrom in Bucharest, Romania, against what is considered “the largest natural gas project in the Romanian part of the Black Sea”, stating that the industry focus should be on the transition to renewable energies and better energy efficiency and not drilling for and burning more gas.

Protesters at OMV Petrom HQ in Bucharest, Romania; Source: Greenpeace

According to Greenpeace, the results of an estimate commissioned by its Romanian branch suggest that the Neptun Deep project could produce more than 200 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over 20 years, therefore threatening the EU’s carbon neutrality target. The environmental organization considers it an example of fossil fuel companies using the excuse of “securing Europe’s energy supply” to push their gas agenda, even though it could endanger wildlife in the Black Sea.

This caused 20 activists from Romania, Bulgaria and Czech Republic to gather in Romania and paint the message “No New Gas” on the OMV Petrom building, while “Stop Neptun Deep”, “Don’t destroy the Black Sea”, “No future for gas” and “Stop fossil gas” could be seen on banners.

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Commenting on the Neptun Deep project, Lisa Göldner, European Energy campaigner at Greenpeace Germany, remarked: “New fossil gas projects are incompatible with limiting global heating to 1.5°C. The last thing the world needs is new fossil gas drilling operations – not in Romania and not anywhere else. Fossil gas is a destructive fossil fuel just like oil and coal. To secure a safe and healthy future for all, all new fossil gas projects in the EU need to be stopped now. Instead of drilling for and burning even more fossil gas, we need to speed up the transition to renewable energies and improve energy efficiency.” 

The Neptune Deep is a $4.4 billion deepwater gas project, considered to be the first deepwater project in Romania and “the largest natural gas project” in the Romanian part of the Black Sea. It is a 50:50 partnership between OMV Petrom, which is also the operator, and Romgaz, Romania’s producer and main supplier of natural gas.

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The eponymous, 7,500 square km block in the Black Sea is located approximately 160 kilometers away from the shore, in waters between 100 and 1,000 meters. The development plan for the project was greenlighted by Romania’s National Agency for Mineral Resources in August 2023, and first gas is expected in 2027, with production of approximately 8 bcm annually (about 140,000 boe/d) for almost ten years.

A carbon footprint of around 2.2 kg CO2/boe is anticipated at plateau production, as opposed to the industry average of 16.7 kg CO2/boe.

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Alin Tanase, Campaigns Coordinator at Greenpeace Romania, noted: “OMV Petrom can’t be trusted. The company refuses to disclose the massive amounts of chemicals that will be dumped into the Black Sea to extract this gas, while daring to tell anyone who will listen that this project has a negative carbon footprint. The reality is OMV is planning to extract methane – a greenhouse gas over 80 times more powerful than CO2 in a 20 year time frame – while harming fish, marine mammals, and terrestrial species and their habitats. Bad for nature, bad for climate, bad for people.”

This was not the first protest related to Neptune Deep, as Greenpeace reports that 76 scientists joined its Australian branch last month to call on OMV to stop the project over concerns related to climate and pressure on marine ecosystems. A rally against the development of the Black Sea project, as well as other new gas infrastructure across Europe, was also held on March 27, 2024, in Vienna, where a conference on gas was meant to take place, but was postponed due to protests.