Romania has reversed gears on its shale gas moratorium and issued Chevron with zoning certificates to resume searching for shale gas in the eastern European state, according to reports from Agence France Presse.

The move marks a change of heart for Romania’s ruling centre-left coalition, in power since May, which had slammed the centre-right government’s original decision to grant shale licences to Chevron and other explorers and slapped a moratorium on shale drilling.

Late last year as the initial moratorium expired, Prime Minister Ponta said shale gas should be approached in a “serious, positive way”, adding he was in favour of exploration.

Chevron told the wire service that it “continues to work with the Romanian government to permit and execute activities within concession areas… in compliance with Romania laws, EU requirements and stringent industry standards”.

Dumitru Buzatu, head of the local county council which issued the zoning permits to Chevron late last week, stressed:

“People must carefully weigh the advantages and the disadvantages. For now it’s only a question of knowing if Romania has such reserves or not.”

The official added further permits would be required before drilling could begin.

Chevron had been hoping to drill the first exploration well in Romania in the second half of 2012 before the ban was instituted.

Specific estimates of the size of shale gas reserves in Romania do not exist yet, but the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has said the joint reserves for Romanian, Bulgarian and Hungarian shale gas was around 538 billion cubic metres.