Chevron has resumed work at what will be its first shale gas well in Romania after protests had earlier suspended operations.

The US supermajor in October suspended work at the Barlad concession near the north-eastern town of Silistea after protesters blocked access to the site.

“Chevron can confirm that it has resumed operations,” Reuters quoted the company as saying in a statement.

“Our priority is to conduct these activities in a safe and environmentally responsible manner consistent with the permits under which we operate.”

Situated in the Barlad concession in Pungesti commune, Vaslui county, the maiden probe had been due to spud before the end of the year.

However, hundreds of protesters formed a human chain at the site, preventing vehicles from gaining access.

The suspension came after Pungesti local council decided to hold a non-binding referendum on 24 November on whether local residents would support Chevron’s shale exploration.

The US supermajor gained approval earlier this year to drill exploratory wells in the protest-hit area, and also holds rights to explore three blocks near the Black Sea spanning 670,000 acres.

Thousands of people have rallied across Romania in recent months to protest government backing for shale gas exploration as well as plans for a new large-scale gold mining project.

Romania’s leftist government led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta had initially opposed shale gas when it took power in May 2012, vowing to institute a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

However, the administration has since reversed this policy, becoming a supporter of shale exploration because of the potential economic benefits from any major discovery.