DEPA, Shell, Eni talks crucial to gas market’s future look

The outcome of ongoing intensive talks between DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, and local retail gas business partners Shell and ENI, holders of respective 49 percent stakes in the EPA Attiki and EPA Thessaly-Thessaloniki ventures, over the future role of the Greek gas utility in the local gas market promises to be pivotal to its future look.

The partners are negotiating for a solution that will determine DEPA’s role in the existing EPA companies, or, even, whether the gas utility will have any role to play at all in these two retail gas firms.

Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis – speaking at a signing ceremony held yesterday for a license offering a consortium comprised of ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), Total and Edison hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation rights to offshore Block 2, west of the Ionian island Corfu – stressed that time is running out for DEPA, Shell and ENI.

The minister noted that the partners will need to find a solution by the end of November, which, in turn, could be used as a platform for decisions to help conclude the bailout agreement’s third review.

Technical officials representing the country’s lender institutions have rejected a Greek road map proposal concerning gas market reforms. This has brought the future of DEPA’s role in Greece’s wholesale, distributions and – especially – retail gas markets to the fore.

A gas market reforms road map needs to be delivered by the end of the year, according to a term included in the revised bailout following a request by the lenders, its aim being to remove factors not promoting competition.

Though this condition’s description is vaguely expressed, it can be interpreted as pressure from the lenders for an end to DEPA’s omnipresence. Likewise, Shell and ENI have also called for a restriction of the gas utility’s widespread role in the local gas market.

Besides DEPA’s role in the gas market, Shell and ENI are also seeking compensations for the premature ends to their regional monopolies in the EPA Attiki and EPA Thessaly-Thessaloniki ventures established with DEPA. An agreement had been reached for these monopolies to last until 2030.

Shell has valued the loss of the regional monopoly granted to EPA Attiki, serving the wider Athens area, at approximately 100 million euros. This amount would be split with DEPA, its partner in the venture.