Pipelines, new LNG station to top visiting Kerry’s agenda

The prospect of US supply of LNG to the Greek market and the wider area through an agreement to include development of a terminal station in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, will be a key item on the agenda of US Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Athens for meetings with leading local officials today.

Kerry is scheduled to hold two separate meetings, both early in the day, with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.

The Syriza-led coalition’s energy policy has taken a realistic turn ever since the political party’s second election victory this year, in September, as was marked by a recent visit to Athens by Amos Hochstein, the US Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs.

Swifter progress has been achieved on the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) plan, leading to an agreement with the TAP consortium over pending issues ahead of the now-imminent construction of the pipeline to carry Azeri natural gas into Europe. Increased activity intended to push forward procedures for the development of the Greek-Bulgarian (IGB) pipeline has also been noticed.

The US is interested in supplying Europe with LNG shale gas. Greece and Croatia, among others, are planned to serve as distribution points in this initiative. Work is underway to increase the capacity of Greece’s exisiting LNG terminal station in Revythoussa, an islet in the Saronic Gulf, close to Athens. The construction of a second Greek LNG station in Alexandroupoli is of even more crucial importance to the US supply plan for Europe. The facility would be connected to the IGB pipeline and, besides Greece, would supply American LNG to the Bulgarian market as well as other countries in the region, all currently heavily dependent on Russian gas.

The US firm Cheniere is preparing a gas export plan for 2016. An announcement by Kerry on the issue during the current visit is possible.

Cheniere, the Copelouzos Group, and DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, are currently engaged in talks on the development of the Alexandroupoli LNG station and reportedly making swift progress. DEPA appears to be abandoning a plan for a terminal station in Kavala.

Kerry arrives in Athens following a stopover in Nicosia for talks focused on the Cyprus issue. The US official was originally scheduled to visit Athens last month but developments in Syria prompted a change of plan.

The uncertainty prompted in the wider region by the current Russian-Turkish standoff following the recent downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish forces, as well as the wider impact of the recent Paris attacks, are also expected to be included on today’s agenda.

The Greek government will also expect support from the US Secretary of State in its effort to be granted national debt relief.