Andreas Goldthau

Governance of Unconventional Gas in Bulgaria: From Exploration to Bust

Oil, Gas and Energy Law Journal. 2014 (14) 3, in OGEL Special: Governance of Unconventional Gas outside the United States of America, co-authored with Mike LaBelle


The story of Bulgarian shale gas exemplifies the difficulty for the unconventional gas industry to take a hold in Europe. This paper investigates the reasons for Bulgaria banning shale gas by disentangling the various domestic causes at work. We find the failure of shale gas exploration to progress in Bulgaria is attributed to two main drivers: material factors such as the government’s interest in staying in power; and process related drivers, notably a highly centralized politically controlled decision making structure and a flawed policy process. Central to the discussion is the alienating of local level municipalities thus making them politically resistant to national level dictates. Interestingly, the protest movement resonated in both the environmental realm and geopolitical sphere, with policy agendas partially overlapping with those of Gazprom, the dominant foreign actor in Bulgaria’s energy system. The fate of Bulgarian shale gas therefore offers broader lessons on the governance of shale gas, for Central Eastern Europe and beyond. Read the whole piece.

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