Albanian example may help oil prospects in Greece’s west

The oil exploration and production activity taking place in neighboring Albania offers hope of better days ahead for Greece’s fledgling hydrocarbons industry.

Just days ago, following the arrival of Shell into Albania’s oil market in 2012, the Geo-Jade Petroleum Corporation, one of China’s biggest independent oil exploration and production companies, also stepped in by acquiring an entire equity portfolio held by Bankers Petroleum for 440.4 million dollars.

This deal transfers the rights held by Bankers Petroleum for Patos-Marinza, an on-shore Albanian oil field producing heavy oil, to the Chinese company.

Besides Shell and the Geo-Jade Petroleum Corporation, other companies have also invested in the Albanian oil market, including San Leon Energy, owned by heavyweight US investor George Soros, and Israel’s ILDC, currently producing off the Hadera coast in Israel.

Greece’s blocks are located just south of the Albanian licenses that have attracted considerable investor interest, despite the deep crisis faced by the petroleum industry as a result of fallen crude oil prices over the past year and a half.

Apart from the geographical proximity, the Greek and Albanian blocks share common geophysical characteristics, as determined by research, which raises the prospects of significant heavy fuel deposits being discovered in the neighboring Greek areas.

Geophysical similarities, compared to the Albanian oil fields, have been found in Ioannina, northwestern Greece, and Katakolo, western Peloponnese. The Greek company Energan Oil & Gas has acquired licenses for blocks in both these areas.

An offshore location off the Paxi group of islands, close to Corfu, in the Ionian Sea – which has been included in an unfinalized tender that is offering offshore blocks in the wider area, as well as south of Crete – also shares similar traits.

According to oil industry pundits, these western Greek blocks in the area south of Albania are overfragmented, which is dampening investor interest.

Mathios Rigas, the chief executive officer at Energean Oil & Gas, recently noted that his firm’s plans include attracting major companies for collaborative efforts in the area. However, Rigas added that the Greek government, joined by private investors, needs to further promote the country’s hydrocarbon potential abroad.

A joint promotional effort could draw major investment interest to western Greece, which, unlike the neighboring Albanian oil fields, is not producing. This, alone, could serve as big incentive for investors.