TAP trial test preparing launch, Azeri gas delivery by year’s end

The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project, to enable the delivery of Caspian gas to destinations throughout southeastern, central and western Europe, is currently undergoing trial tests at its interconnection with the Greek grid in Thessaloniki’s Nea Mesimvria area, sources have informed.

As things currently stand, gas grid operator DESFA should be ready to receive Azeri natural gas through the Nea Mesimvria point within the next few weeks, a development that will offer the Greek gas grid a fifth alternative supply entry point.

Completion of the trial testing, expected to last until next month, will enable the project’s commercial launch. Greek gas utility DEPA and Bulgaria’s BEH have reserved respective capacities at preceding auctions.

The TAP project’s launch promises to benefit the Greek economy and also bolster the country’s energy supply security.

At present, the national gas grid possesses three entry points. Russian gas enters Greece via the Nea Mesimvria point after crossing the Bulgarian system. Kipoi in Evros, northeastern Greece, linked to a Greek-Turkish pipeline, and the LNG terminal at the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens, represent the Greek system’s two other entry points.

Besides Nea Mesimvria, the TAP project, running across northern Greece and through Albania all the way across the Adriatic Sea to Italy, will also offer the Greek gas grid a fifth entry point via Italy.

TAP’s commercial launch now on the final stretch

The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project, to enable the delivery of Caspian gas to destinations throughout southeastern, central and western Europe, is almost ready for its commercial launch, four years after construction began and 17 years after its first feasibility study was conducted.

The project, running from the Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan, will represent the EU’s main alternative route for natural gas, greatly contributing to the end of the continent’s dependence on Russian gas, supply security and intensified competition.

The TAP project will begin operating at a capacity of 10 billion cubic meters, annually.

Greece was the first of the project’s host countries to complete its segment of construction work, a 550-km stretch across northern Greece, from Evros’ Kipoi area in the northeast to Ieropigi in the Kastoria province, at the Greek-Albanian border.

Just days ago, Greece’s energy ministry approved the operation of the project’s Greek segment, running from Evros to Rodopi, Xanthi, Kavala, Drama, Serres, Thessaloniki, Kilkis, Pella, Imathia, Florina, Kozani and Kastroria.

Authorities of the project’s two other host nations, Albania and Italy, will soon grant their respective operating permits, sources informed.

The project’s commercial launch is expected to take place close to the final quarter this year, the energy ministry has announced.

The Greek and Italian gas grid operators, DESFA and Snam, respectively, will need to prepare their national grids so that natural gas quantities can reach consumers via TAP, sources added.

 

Hydrocarbons can push RES sector to next stage, new EDEY official says

The hydrocarbons industry will continue to play an important role in the energy mix until 2050, despite a shift in policies turning to renewable energy, and could also serve as a lever of support propelling the RES sector to its next stage, according to Aristofanis Stefatos, the newly appointed chief executive of EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company.

Stefatos and Rikard Skoufias, concurrently named new president of EDEY, offered their views on the upstream sector during questioning by Greek Parliament’s permanent committee on institutions and transparency.

The two men, both proposed by energy minister Costis Hatzidakis for the top EDEY jobs, officially assumed their roles following approval by the committee.

During questioning, committee members asked about the future of the hydrocarbons sector and licenses in Greece given the major decline in crude oil prices, as well as climate change policies being adopted.

Stefatos described the dip in crude oil prices as a temporary condition, noting the sector has experienced such situations in the past before rebounding. “It is only a matter of time before the same thing happens again,” he noted.

The two officials were also asked to comment on environmental protection issues, while Stefatos, the new chief executive, was asked to clarify on his position as shareholder of a Norwegian upstream company.

An offshore corridor running down from Albania into Greece’s EEZ has potential, while signs of a deposit in the area are encouraging, Stefatos told the committee. However, further 3D seismic surveys must soon be conducted in the area, he stressed.

PPC list of electricity import traders for 2019 contains surprises

The main power utility PPC’s list of traders chosen for electricity imports in 2019 from grid interconnections north of Greece contains certain surprises.

A number of major players have not made PPC’s recently approved list of traders for 2019, while firms limited to minor transboundary electricity trade roles last year –  through Greece’s grid interconnections with Bulgaria, Fyrom (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and Albania – have been included.

PPC’s list of traders for 2019 is comprised of Alpiq, CEZ, EFT, Elpetra, Enmar, Freepoint, Grand Energy, HSE, Green, LET and Terna Energy Trading.

Four of these, Elpetra, Enmar, Freepoint and Grand Energy, were not involved in any trading activity with PPC last year.

According to a related monthly industry report, electricity imports last December were provided by six traders, these being Alpiq (33.302 MWh), CEZ (19 MWh), EFT Slovenia (21.295 MWh), HSE (28.375 MWh), GreenEnv (33.116 MWh) and LE Trading (1.417 MWh).

PPC and Alpiq operate a subsdiary firm in Bulgaria focused on transboundary electricity trade.

 

 

 

Greece, Albania reach EEZ deal promising Block 1, 2 progress

The governments of Greece and Albania appear to have reached an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) agreement whose implementation would clearly define offshore regional borders and enable hydrocarbon exploration progress in the Ionian Sea’s Blocks 1 and 2. An official announcement by both sides is expected soon, energypress has been informed.

In the past, Albania has strongly reacted against the prospect of any exploration at these blocks, which the neighboring country has regarded as disputed offshore territory.

The Greek government’s agreement with Tirana comes as acknowledgment of partial faults that have existed until now in the mapping out of the EEZ, reliable sources noted.

In exchange, Albanian officials will not be able to raise hydrocarbon-related objections with regards to the continental shelf close to Greece’s Othoni and Erikousa islets, located in the Ionian Sea’s north.

Leading Greek government officials have expressed confidence that problems encountered in the past, from Albanian opposition against Greek hydrocarbon activity in the region to attempts by the neighboring country to explore areas within Greece’s EEZ, will not be repeated following this latest agreement.

Blocks 1 and 2 were included in a Greek package of 20 offshore blocks included in a tender that ended in July, 2015.

A consortium comprised of Total, ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) and Edison signed an agreement for Block 2, in the Ionian Sea’s north, last year.

The situation concerning Block 1, in the Ionian Sea’s northwest, remains unclear. ELPE had submitted an offer but local authorities have kept putting off its appraisal.

Less than a decade ago, Turkey had intervened following a previous EEZ agreement reached between Greece and Albania, demanding Tirana to retract the arrangement as it offered Greece full islands rights, which carried negative implications concerning Ankara’s hydrocarbon interests in the Aegean Sea.

 

 

 

 

 

PPC eyeing Fyrom, Albania, Turkey to offset local retreat

Greece’s main power utility PPC, keen to gain from the opportunities offered by an early entry into a foreign electricity market now being liberalized, is looking to acquire EDS, an electricity trading company with a 320 MW portfolio in Fyrom, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, representing 40 percent of the neighboring market, and possessing a presence, through subsidiaries, in the Serbian, Slovak and Kosovo markets.

Facing severe bailout-required market share contraction targets in Greece, PPC is desperately seeking to offset its anticipated domestic retreat with the generation of revenues abroad.

Though it is still too early for PPC to make any formal announcements on investment objectives in the wider region, the power utility has, for quite some time now, been examining a variety of prospects, including investing in Albanian hydropower facilities. PPC has already established a subsidiary in Albania.

Turkey is another neighboring market being examined by PPC. Early last month, PPC’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis, speaking at the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Greek Economy Conference”, revealed that the Greek power utility was looking to acquire the development rights for a power station in Turkey’s Eskisehir area, in the northwest, with Chinese firm Shenhua as the investment’s partner. “Our strategic choice is to become leaders in the region, which will enable us to develop as a modern electricity company,” Panagiotakis had remarked, suggesting PPC needs the support of foreign capital to remain afloat.

The Eskisehir plan entails the development of a 1,080-MW power plant, according to Turkish media. Lignite deposits in the area currently belong to EUAS (Electricity Generation Inc), which, along with the prospective power facility, represent part of a privatization plan. A January 26 deadline has been set for binding offers, while, according to local media, the winning bidder will be able to sell electricity production to the Turkish grid, through this facility, at a minimum tariff level of 5 to 6 dollars per KWh.

According to the bailout terms, PPC needs to reduce its Greek retail electricity market share to 49 percent by 2020.

 

 

DESFA plan for TAP maintenance in Greece, Albania progressing

Talks between DESFA, Greece’s gas grid operator, and the TAP consortium concerning a prospective agreement offering operating and maintenance responsibilities of the pipeline’s segment running through Greek territory to the operator have entered the final stretch following a period of stagnancy, caused by a leadership change at TAP during the summer, sources have informed.

The operating and maintenance agreement between DESFA and the TAP consortium is expected to soon be signed, the sources added.

At the same time, legal and procedural matters concerning the establishment of a joint venture involving DESFA and Albania’s Albgaz to take on operating and maintenance duties for the TAP pipeline’s Albanian segment are gradually being resolved, the sources said.

As part of this arrangement, DESFA is expected to provide knowhow and training to the Greek-Albanian joint venture, whose headquarters are planned to be based in Tirana. A working group is believed to be currently examining the make-up of this new company.

Currently being constructed, the TAP pipeline, to cover 878 kilometers, will run through Greece’s north, Albania and across the Adriatic Sea to Italy, transporting natural gas from the giant Shah Deniz II field in Azerbaijan to Europe.

PPC preparing for new attempt to penetrate Balkan markets

PPC, Greec’s main power utility, is preparing to make a new attempt at penetrating the Balkan market, the corporation’s chief has told the recently launched weekly Nea Selida.

As part of the effort, the utility plans to participate in an upcoming international tender offering two hydropower facilities in Turkey, while similar moves are being planned for the Albanian market, according to PPC chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis.

The power utilty’s entry into the wider Balkan market, gaining pivotal importance as the EU energy market moves towards full intergration, is imperative for the Greek corporation’s future, Panagiotakis stressed in the interview.

PPC is aiming to heighten its activity in the Turkish market by establishing synergies with enterprises in the neighboring country, Panagiotakis noted without elaborating further.

Many pundits believe that PPC will seek to penetrate the Balkans with the backing of Chinese business partners. For quite some time now, the Greek utility has made clear its anticipation of and reliance on Chinese capital as a key towards entering Balkan markets following unsuccesssful attempts going back over a decade.

PPC made its first attempt in 2003 when it sought to enter the Romanian market. A series of other efforts ensued, all proving unsuccessful.

Albania, where PPC has established a subsidiary, needs to have its network developed, while thermal units also need to be constructed as the country’s network is heavily reliant on hydropower facilities.

 

Albgaz wants completion of TAP talks ahead of any DESFA partnership

Albania’s gas transmission system operator company Albgaz is in discussion with the TAP consortium developing the Trans Adriatic Pipeline) for provision of maintenance service concerning the pipeline’s Albanian section, an Albgaz source has told Azerbaijani news agency Trend.

In April, DESFA, Greece’s gas transmission system operator, and Albgaz had signed a memorandum of understanding to create a joint venture for maintenance of TAP in Albania.

“We have not received yet the scope of works as the first necessary step from TAP AG. Albgaz is in discussion with TAP AG and we believe it is possible to finalize an agreement within the current year,” the Albgaz source noted.

The source noted that Albgaz was in discussion with DESFA but added that the Albanian operator will not take part in any consortium or partnership with regards to maintenance services for the pipeline’s Albanian section unless it has first received all necessary details from the TAP consortium on the scope of the work, the principles, strategy and other related project details.

“Right now, we believe we are in a better position than we were originally as we have been certified as a TSO by the Albanian Regulator and have also been recognized and certified by the Energy Community Secretariat. We will receive a full license this September. We will then proceed to establish partnerships with all TSOs to promote natural gas developments in the best interests of Albgaz and Albania,” the Albgaz source added.

 

 

DESFA, Albgas to assume TAP duties on Albanian territory

A prospective joint venture involving DESFA, Greece’s gas grid operator, and Albania’s Albgas will assume the operational and maintenance duties for the TAP gas pipeline segment crossing Albanian territory, according to energpress sources.

DESFA officials are expected in Tirana today to sign related agreements. The TAP pipeline will run through northern Greece, Albania and across the Adriatic Sea to Italy for delivery of natural gas from the Caspian region to Europe.

The same sources noted that DESFA will sign an MOU following the Easter break with Bulgartransgaz, Bulgaria’s gas operator, as well as Romania’s Transgaz and Hungary’s FGSZ to push ahead the development of the Vertical Corridor. Ukraine’s Uktransgaz has also expressed interest in this project.

Last September, the Greek, Bulgarian, Romanian and Hungarian gas operators, along with ICGB – a 50-50 joint venture involving Bulgarian state-run company BEH and Poseidon (DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, and Edison, formed for the prospective Greek-Bulgarian IGB natural gas pipeline – signed a joint declaration pledging to intensify their efforts for the development of the Vertical Corridor at technical and regulatory levels.

The IGB pipeline is planned to be incorporated into the Vertical Corridor. The Vertical Corridor, to provide a northbound natural gas transit route from Europe’s southeast, including Greece, is planned to connect with the TAP pipeline.

The Vertical Corridor may also be linked to Greece’s LNG terminal on Revythoussa, an islet just off Athens, whose capacity is being increased, and, as a result, will offer southeast European countries access to LNG.

DESFA is also pressing ahead with preparations for the establishment of a wholesale trade gas hub. A plan for this venture, commissioned to Belgium’s Fluxys, has already been completed. Fluxys is now preparing plans to establish a platform for gas auctions, expected in 2018.

Also, a feasibility study for a 160-km gas pipeline linking Thessaloniki with Stip, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom), is being carried out. An MOU for this project plan has been signed between DESFA and Fyrom’s MER.

This project would provide Fyrom with direct access to the Revythoussa LNG terminal. It could also facilitate a link for Fyrom’s gas network with the TAP pipeline.

 

Albania, widened local activity, included in PPC’s new strategy

The administration at main power utility PPC expects its planned expansion into the Albanian market to play an important role in helping offset the utility’s anticipated bailout-required market share losses in Greece.

PPC has already established a subsidiary firm in Albania, a move that indicates the utility’s eagerness to pursue a two-pronged attack through which domestic domestic activities will be broadened and foreign market campaigns intensified.

The utility’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis recently held a series of key talks in Albania within the framework of a PPC-organized conference on the neighboring country’s hydropower potential.

Albania’s energy minister Damian Gjikouri, his deputy, Gesim Musabelliu, and the country’s economic development minister, Milva Ekonomi, all made clear their interest to establish a strategic partnership with PPC, perceived by the Albanian officials as a key regional player in electricity.

PPC officials, in comments made to energypress, noted that Albania possesses enormous hydropower potential. The country plans to roughly double its overall electricity production by 2030 from the current level of 4,200 GWh to over 8,100 GWh. The greatest part of this increase will come through Albania’s utilization of its hydropower sources, whose proven dynamic has been measured at 4,500 MW. About 1,460 MW is being utilized at present.

Albania also needs to develop its power distribution network as well as its thermal electricity production domain as the country heavily relies on water for power production at a level of 85 percent.

Besides relying on the knowhow of its personnel, especially in the hydropower sector, PPC also intends to collaborate with Greek construction firms with experience in such projects. Some were represented at the recent conference in Albania.

PPC is looking for new sources of revenue, through its involvement in major energy sector projects, both in Greece and abroad, to offset its anticipated losses to be caused by the bailout-required breakaway of its subsidiary firm IPTO, the power grid operator, as well as the utility’s expected market share contraction, another bailout demand.

Besides its ambitions in Albania, PPC will seek to find a partner to submit a joint bid for development of a submarine cable connection linking Crete with mainland Greece. PPC also plans to develop renewable energy source projects, in various RES fields, through its subsidiary firm PPC Renewables. The utility will also eye projects in other countries such as Turkey, Egypt, and Iran, and also focus on Greece’s rapidly expanding electric car market.

 

 

PPC eyes Albania’s hydropower potential to offset contraction

Main power utility PPC intends to pursue investment opportunities in neighboring Albania by taking on hydropower station construction projects that may utilize the country’s energy-producing potential in this area.

The utility’s top officials will be in Tirana tomorrow for a conference sponsored by PPC to focus on Albania’s hydropower potential. PPC’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis will be the event’s key speaker.

PPC’s administration sees major hydropower potential in the Albanian market and, in response, intends to utilize its knowhow and combine this with the experience of Greek construction firms in hydropower project development. Certain Greek construction firms will be represented at tomorrow’s Tirana conference.

The natural conditions in Albania, similar to Greece’s, offer hydropower potential that could support projects with capacities of 1,000 MW.

PPC’s business interest in Albania comes as part of a wider effort being pursued by the utility to generate earnings from new sources given the certainty of revenue and market share losses in Greece’s retail electricity market, irrespective of how long this contraction takes.

The utility faces Greek bailout-related obligations designed to reduce PPC’s market shares in electricity production and supply to less than 50 percent by 2020.

Responding to the prospect, PPC has already made clear its interest to take on major energy projects in Greece and the wider region over the next few years.

These include the submarine cable interconnection of Crete with mainland Greece, a project being planned by the country’s power grid operator IPTO, still under PPC’s control as a subsidiary firm but headed for a bailout-required breakaway.

PPC also wants to develop renewable energy source (RES) units through PPC Renewables, a wholly-owned PPC subsidiary, beginning with two major wind-energy parks, as well as geothermal and biomass projects.

PPC will also seek to be commissioned study or maintenance contracts for energy projects in countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Iran. The utility’s engineers possess considerable experience in this field.

On another front, PPC is determined to enter the rapidly growing electric car market, expected to provide major commercial potential in Greece over the next few years.

Panagiotakis, PPC’s chief, recently admitted that the utility has no choice but to be an entirely different corporation in a few years time. He has told company officials to be prepared for market share losses in electricity supply. The corporation’s slow but steady electricity retail market share contraction cost it 108 million euros in 2015. The figure is expected to exceed 250 million euros in 2016.

Shell expands its Albanian presence south, just off Greece

Canadian company Petromanas Energy has agreed to sell its Albanian assets to Shell, a move that provides the multinational giant with entrepreneurial control of the Shpiragu block in Albania’s south.

The development, which brings Shell’s oil interests further south, just above the Greek-Albanian border, coincides with the announcement of the results of a tender for exploration and exploitation licenses at three onshore blocks in western Greece.

The Arta-Preveza block, which had drawn offers from both ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) and Energean Oil & Gas, has been awarded to ELPE. The Etoloakarnania block was granted to Energean Oil & Gas, the sole bidder for this block, while the northwestern Peloponnese block has been offered to ELPE, also the only bidder.

Interestingly, the Ioannina region in Greece’s northwest, already being explored by Energean Oil & Gas, shares similar geological traits with the neighboring Albanian regions possessing oil deposits. This raises the oil exploration prospects in Greece.

Shell’s broadened activities in the neighboring north increase the likelihood that the company may also turn to Greek deposits in the future.

A total of seven exploration and exploitation licenses have been offered in Greece following the provision of the latest three in western Greece – Arta-Preveza, Etoloakarnania, and the northwestern Peloponnese.

Returning to Albania, it should be noted that Shell declared an interest in the region once a first round of drilling work had been completed. The discovery of considerable amounts of oil and natural gas was announced following the procedure. Shell decided to increase its level of investments in Albania as soon as the discoveries were confirmed, last March, in the Berat area.

As noted by sector authorities, preliminary exploration work for prospective deposits in newer areas such as Albania and Epirus, in Greece’s northwest, requires considerable work, which is usually conducted by smaller companies. The bigger companies move in to invest further, and with greater security, once major discoveries have been made.

The oil industry in Albania is currently booming. A total of eight oil companies have acquired licenses for 18 blocks, both onshore and offshore. Besides Shell and Petromanas, Bankers Petroleum and Stream Oil & Gas, both Canadian, the British firm Cairn, Israel’s ILDC, amd San Leon Energy, owned by major investor George Soros, have all acquired blocks Albania.