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The first Romanian gas molecule in the Black Sea will be drilled this year by the Black Sea Oil&Gas company from the Aurora perimeter, and from the Neptune Deep area it will probably happen in 2025, Energy Minister Virgil Popescu said on Monday evening on private B1 TV broadcaster.

"I think we're going to get more out of the Black Sea than we can consume, but we have until 2025 probably when the first gas molecule from Neptune Deep could be extracted, and here I would add something. The first Romanian gas, the first Romanian gas molecule in the Black Sea, will be this year. It will be drilled by the Black Sea Oil&Gas from another perimeter, Aurora, in the northern area of the perimeter and they will release the first Romanian gas. It's a smaller discovery, it's a smaller perimeter than Neptune Deep, but the first Romanian gas will come out of the Black Sea. So we're going to have the first gas out of the Black Sea this year,'" the minister said.

"Yes, Romania is a gas producer. We are among the few gas producers in Europe and until the great quantity of gas comes out of the Black Sea we have time to build more gas-producing power plants - and here I would see them inside the Carpathian arc, because that area of Transylvania is not an area where it is being produced and that's why Mintia and Paroseni [thermal power plants, ed. n.] are there, it is very important to keep and upgrade them, partly switch them to gas and, why not, others, as well. We have the project at Halanga, where there was a thermal power plant, it has been closed, so (...) a new electricity production unit must be put in place and obviously we need the gas processed on a higher added value and here we are talking about the development of petrochemistry, and Romgaz [Romania's largest natural gas producer and main supplier, ed. n.] has a first project of methanol production, which is a first step towards petrochemicals. And I believe that until the gas comes out we can discuss projects and have gas consumption capacities inside Romania. Obviously, if we have gas surplus - and we will have gas surplus - it must be sold, and Romania can become a gas supplier on the regional market. And let us not forget the development of the natural gas distribution network and the population's gas heating," he said.

As for the exploitation of gas from the Black Sea, in Neptune Deep, the Energy minister has assured that this year the Offshore Law will be amended in Parliament.

"We have a Neptune Deep perimeter, which is the richest discovery, half owned by Petrom, a Romanian company owned in its turn 51 pct by OMV - the Romanian state has 20 pct left in Petrom - and by Exxon, the American company. The American company Exxon wants to sell, wants to leave this stake. I said - and we are in negotiations - that if Exxon wants to leave, I want the Romanian company Romgaz, a company owned 80 pct by the Romanian state, to come to take over this 50 pct of Exxon. There is talk between companies, it will come to an offer, it will come to negotiations and I am convinced that in no time we will have Romgaz as a shareholder - or say to own a 50 pct share of the Neptune Deep deposit, together with the Romanian company, because Petrom is a Romanian company, even if it is owned by the Austrians, OMV Petrom. In parallel, it is desired - it was desired by all investors in the Black Sea - to change the Offshore Law in Parliament," Virgil Popescu said.AGERPRES(RO - author: Oana Tilica, editor: Nicoleta Gherasi; EN - author: Maria Voican, editor: Simona Iacob)

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