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Shale Gas Exploration Raises Water Contamination Concerns in Lithuania

VILNIUS, Lithuania

A Lithuanian government commission led by Deputy Minister for the Environment Daiva Matoniene, on July 19 postponed a final decision on a shale gas exploration tender in Western Lithuania.

The final decision will be made during the next commission meeting on September 16. Chevron Lithuania, a subsidiary of the US-based company oil giant, has submitted the only bid to explore for shale gas reserves in the Silute-Taurage and Kudirkos-Naumniestis-Kybartai regions in Western Lithuania.     

The tender is being postponed because of the country’s new Law on Underground Resources, which came into force on July 1 and includes stricter requirements for shale gas exploration and exploitation. Another factor is the controversy surrounding shale gas exploration. The threat to groundwater resources is a major issue in Lithuania. Almost all of water provided through centralized networks in the country is sourced from groundwater reservoirs.  

Public protests against shale gas extraction are becoming more frequent throughout the country. The latest demonstration took place on July 20 in downtown Kaunas, the second largest city in the country, which is located at some distance from the proposed exploration sites. Public organizations in the affected areas in western Lithuania are protesting on a permanent basis.

Scientists have estimated Lithuania’s shale gas resources at some 100 billion cubic meters. The country’s average annual natural gas consumption totals 3 billion cubic meters.

Some experts say shale gas resources exploration will not pose any risk to groundwater in the area. Shale gas exploration work is planned to be carried out at some 2,000 meters below the surface, while groundwater resources are located no more than 200 meters deep.

Russia is currently the only natural gas supplier in Lithuania due to the absence of pipelines to other potential suppliers. Lithuania also lacks a liquefied natural gas terminal.

The Financial Times said earlier this year that shale gas exploitation in Lithuania poses a threat to Russian gas company Gazprom. 

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