Eastern Europe and America’s Energy Challenge


In the late 1990s, I was asked to assist the country of Bulgaria in its oil and gas development. Leading the effort was Dr. Boyko Nitzov, a Bulgarian, who was then working at the University of Oklahoma, along with Dr. Dennis O’Brien, then the university’s director for the Institute for Energy, Economics and Policy at Sarkey’s Energy Center.

Dr. Dennis O’Brien and Dr. Boyko Nitzov were providing major studies of oil and gas in Kazakhstan, executive management training for international delegations from Central Asia and Eastern Europe and in Bulgaria for the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. Dr. O’Brien had been instrumental throughout the years of assisting me with the International Energy Policy Conference. He introduced several high profile energy leaders to the conference throughout the years, which I founded and have chaired since 1992, including the /President of Phillips Petroleum and the Chairman/President of PDVSA.

Dr. O’Brien held several distinguished positions throughout his career including the chief economist of Caltex Petroleum Corporation, managing director of Petroad, which assisted clients in developing and implementing strategic business visions and planning for the global energy industry, and served as deputy assistant secretary for International Energy Security for the U.S. Department of Energy. He passed away in 2005 and is greatly missed.

Dr. Nitzov was highly respected among his fellow Bulgarians especially with the Bulgarian government and the country’s oil and gas sector. He has served as director of the Eurasian Energy Program, Atlantic Council in Brussels, Belgium.

What concerned Bulgaria and Eastern Europe at the time was the great dependency on Russia’s natural gas and energy support. Our goal was to evaluate how we could assist Bulgaria in becoming more self-reliant.

During my trips to Bulgaria along with Dr. Nitzov, we found that the Bulgarian oil and gas sector was not being managed at full potential. The infrastructure needed upgrading, the management needed up-to-date technological training, research, and development was at a minimum. U.S. know-how and support was a high priority greatly needed. One of the accomplishments the team was able to assist with successfully was with the development of an underground gas storage facility in Bulgaria.

We identified fields onshore that had not reached their full development. Also, we identified potential offshore locations on the Black Sea. If our research could have factored in the application of today’s science of combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, there is no doubt in my mind, that Bulgaria’s resource development would be greatly enhanced.

Wall Street Journal stated that “there is a strategic case for more U.S. natural gas exports to Europe, as well as for more investment in projects…which would bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe without going through Russia.”

Leaders from Eastern Europe go on to state “natural gas would be much welcome in Central and Eastern Europe, and Congressional action to expedite exports (liquefied natural gas) to America’s allies would come at a critically important time for the region.”

The U.S. has an abundance of natural gas. Russia continues to focus on Eastern European dependency on its resources including natural gas.

It is time we come together: The U.S. has the immediate challenge of striving for energy independence but also, global energy security for others. It is extremely important that the U.S. be in a strong position of securing energy reserves within its own boundaries. The Global Economic & Security Reality: America Needs America’s Energy and the World Needs America’s Know-How and Natural Gas!
Mark A. Stansberry is chairman of the Group, an award-winning author and Energy Advocate.

Updated 04-05-2017

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