Greece must back US in Europe’s energy battle, ambassador tells

Greece will need to pursue its energy policies in accordance with American regional priorities and interests or else be viewed as a rival force, the Barack Obama-nominated US ambassador to Greece Geoffrey R. Pyatt noted yesterday at a local industry event, the Athens Energy Forum. The US and Russia are currently maneuvering natural gas supply control in Europe.

Though expressing support for Greece’s aspiration to become a regional energy hub, as indicated by his firm backing for the development of projects such as the TAP and IGB pipelines, as well a floating LNG unit in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, all of which will help boost non-Russian gas supply, including American, to Europe, Pyatt made clear the US’s opposition to the development of the ITGI pipeline, planned to transmit Russian natural gas to Europe via Greece and Italy.

The ITGI project is being discreetly supported by the Greek government, DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, and Edison, along with Russia’s Gazprom.

Pyatt also reminded, in a less direct fashion, that the US possesses a number of alternatives to get its LNG to European markets. He made reference to a new LNG terminal in Lithuania, one of the gateways available to the US, along with Turkey – as highlighted by a recent LNG delivery to the country by US LNG trader Cheniere – and Poland, receiving strong US support for a major LNG terminal.

Greece will need American support to develop its LNG terminal plan in Alexandroupoli, part of the strategy that would help transform the country into a regional energy hub.

Not surprisingly, the US ambassador devoted a significant part of his speech at yesterday’s Athens conference to explaining why America believes Russia’s natural gas transmission plans for Europe should not be reinforced by third parties.

Pyatt made numerous references to the EU’s intention to end its heavy reliance on Russian natural gas, noting that this represents a golden opportunity for the US to ship in LNG tankers to the continent. Despite the high expectations, the results have been subdued so far.

Gazprom has already made a move to reserve TAP capacity as part of its natural gas transmission plans to Europe. This initiative has been met with cautious optimism, and, in some cases, approval by TAP consortium members. The Russian energy giant’s initiative has, as expected, provoked a negative US reaction.