Lignite re-emphasis temporary measure for security, PM says

A government decision for an increased lignite share of the country’s energy mix is purely temporary and driven by energy security concerns, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis clarified during a speech yesterday in Kozani, northern Greece.

The same goes for Athens’ thoughts about extending the lives of state-controlled power utility PPC’s two lignite-fired power stations, Meliti and Agios Dimitrios V. PPC plans to withdraw these units by the end of 2023, as part of the country’s decarbonization strategy, but this exit date may now be delayed.

The technical future of PPC’s Ptolemaida V, a new convertible power station, is unclear. During yesterday’s speech, the Greek prime minister informed that, if needed, this facility would operate as a lignite-fired facility until 2028, before switching to natural gas. This switch could be made at an earlier date if the war ends and natural gas prices fall significantly, seen as unlikely at present.

This overall change in direction is directly linked to the European Commission’s decision to significantly revise the EU’s Fit for 55 plan, originally setting a target for a 55 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. Details of the Fit for 55 revisions, prompted by the impact on markets of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and the EU’s resulting decision to drastically reduce its reliance on Russian natural gas, are expected to be announced by the European Commission in May.

The EU’s new energy strategy is expected to lead to an increase in the use of biomethane and green hydrogen, as well as reduced gas consumption, regardless of the supplier, be it Russia, the USA, Qatar or Algeria.

Authorities admit the international LNG market cannot increase production to a level that would fully replace Russian gas supply.

EU headed for joint energy supply plan, challenges faced

The EU appears headed towards adopting a strategy for joint supply of natural gas, LNG and hydrogen, along the lines of a policy implemented for joint Covid-19 vaccination orders at the height of the pandemic, to combat skyrocketing energy prices, a draft prepared ahead of tomorrow’s summit, bringing together the EU’s 27 leaders, has indicated.

Governments of Europe’s south, hit harder by the energy crisis, and European consumers across the continent are anticipating measures that can help contain sharply increased gas, electricity and oil prices.

The joint supply plan’s implementation would come as a bold initiative by the EU, taking steps to greatly reduce its reliance on Russian gas, but various obstacles will need to be overcome.

Joint energy orders will be far trickier for the EU to execute than the mass orders it had placed with pharmaceutical companies for Covid-19 vaccinations back in June, 2020, as the former are commodities traded in fluctuating markets.

LNG suppliers such as the USA, Qatar and Algeria would have to redirect to Europe quantities usually shipped to Asian markets at highly profitable prices. Also, the reaction of China, America’s number one buyer of LNG, remains unknown.

The joint-supply strategy would be combined with the establishment of an energy safety reserve, as the European Commission has ordered EU member states to fill underground gas storage (UGS) facilities to 90 percent of their capacities by November 1, in preparation for next winter.

This would resolve energy sufficiency concerns but currently elevated prices are an issue. Also, many European UGS facilities have, until now, been managed by Russia’s Gazprom. It remains unclear if the Russian gas giant would be legally obliged to abandon these facilities.

The joint-supply strategy has been on the negotiating table since last year but held back by disagreements.



Emergency energy plan shaped should Russia invade Ukraine

The government’s emergency energy sufficiency plan should a Russian invasion of Ukraine occur over the next couple of months and interrupt Russian gas supply to Greece, a worst-case scenario considered unlikely yet not impossible, includes at least three additional LNG shipments from Algeria and Egypt, a switch to diesel powering of natural gas-fueled powered stations, wherever this is technically possible, as well as increased inflow of natural gas from Azerbaijan through the TAP route.

The country’s energy planning authorities continue to believe there is no cause for alarm, despite being under no illusions that the quantity of Russian gas supply received by Greece could be fully replaced in the event of a disruption.

External factors beyond the control of the country’s energy officials will be crucial should  Russian forces invade Ukraine. The duration of any conflict, weather conditions over the next couple of months, as well as the availability of additional gas orders, in a market where demand levels are already breaking records, are all crucial factors that would shape the severity of yet another crisis.

Officials to examine domestic gas supply security, Ukraine route a concern

The indefinite outcome of ongoing negotiations between the EU and Russia for a renewal of a gas supply agreement facilitating supply to the continent via Ukraine will be a major concern for Greek energy market officials at a meeting scheduled for Monday to examine domestic energy security matters for the forthcoming winter, including alternatives in the case of emergencies.

An existing gas supply agreement between the EU and Russia expires on December 31. It remains unclear when a new agreement could be reached and what terms it could carry. Talks between Brussels and Moscow have been difficult so far.

Officials representing Greece’s energy ministry, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, gas grid operator DESFA, power grid operator IPTO and the Greek energy exchange, amongst others, will participate in Monday’s meeting, at the RAE headquarters.

In a recent report, ENTSOG, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas, tasked with facilitating and enhancing cooperation between national gas transmission system operators (TSOs) across Europe, pointed out two gas supply security concerns for Greece.

The country, along with central and other southeast European countries, would face problems if Russian supply via Ukraine were to be interrupted during high-demand periods.

Any disruption of LNG supply from Algeria, providing Greece with significant quantities, was also pointed out as a concern in the ENTSOG report.

The European Commission has requested all EU member states to provide respective gas-related energy security plans, given the uncertainty of the EU’s talks with Russia, so that Brussels may establish an overall picture.

Officials in Athens remain confident the Greek energy plan will effectively deal with gas needs in Greece this coming winter. An upgrade in the storage capacity of Greece’s Revythoussa LNG terminal close to Athens, as well as an increase in LNG imports, has helped reinforce this confidence.



Algeria Oil & Gas Summit rescheduled for November 19-21

ALNAFT, Algeria’s state-owned oil licensing body, has rescheduled its Algeria Oil & Gas Summit, open to international oil & gas companies, for November 19-21.

The event was originally planned for June 17-19, but these dates needed to be changed as a result of political issues in the country, organizers noted.

For the first time, ALNAFT will be sharing onshore and offshore updates for Sonatrach, Algeria’s state-owned oil and gas, Africa’s leading gas producer, and opportunities for independent oil & gas companies.

Sonatrach will discuss its plans and share important updates for the Algerian and global hydrocarbons industry. With more exploration and production projects on the way, the need for new partners is higher than ever.

Algeria’s main operators will provide updates, discuss future plans and partnership opportunities while networking with the region’s key players.

The Algeria Oil & Gas Summit speakers include: Arezki Hocini, President, ALNAFT; Jean-Pascal Clemencon, Managing Director & Country Chair Algeria, Total; and Abdelmadjid Attar, Vice-President, Algerian Association of the Gas Industry.

The event offers an ideal opportunity for oil and gas companies (exploration and production), consultants, seismic, drilling and other service companies to have in-depth discussions and one-to-one private meetings with ALNAFT and National Hydrocarbon Agencies from Mediterranean countries.

The focus will be on current exploration opportunities, geology, legislation, midstream and licensing updates in West Africa.

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DEPA pivotal in energy crisis with triple-sized gas orders

The latest round of pressure felt by the energy system is not as acute as the wave experienced over recent weeks, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, determined at a meeting yesterday, and, as a result, set a natural gas consumption limit of 90,000 MWh per day for natural gas-fueled power stations.

DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, which has played a pivotal role in the situation this winter, informed that a new LNG shipment from Algeria is currently being loaded and expected to arrive at Greece’s terminal on the island Revythoussa, just off Athens, this coming Monday.

Authorities have decided that the main power utility PPC’s production units in Lavrio, southeast of Athens, and Komotini, northern Greece, as well as the independent producer Heron’s unit in Viotia, slightly northwest of Athens, will, in the coming days, need to switch to fuel-fired electricity production to the extent considered necessary by IPTO, the power grid operator.

This is not the first time DEPA has needed to step in and play a pivotal role in the effort to ensure the country’s energy adequacy over the past couple of months. Natural gas demand generated by the number of independent electricity producers operating in Greece rose sharply in December and January.

DEPA has needed to make seven extraordinary LNG orders, two of which were shipped in by large-capacity tankers carrying 120,000 cubic meters, to deal with the exceptionally high gas demand this winter, triple the usual amount.

The reduced electricity output in France as a result of the country’s temporary closure of nuclear power stations deprived the European electricity grid of considerable electricity amounts. Major electricity amounts needed to be imported into France from Europe, including Greece.

Under normal circumstances, roughly 15 percent of Greece’s electricity requirements are covered by imported electricity, primarily through interconnections with neighbors in the north and, to a lesser extent, Italy and Turkey.

This winter, the electricity amount that is usually imported into Greece needed to be generated domestically. Technical problems with the Italian interconnection, eventually repaired in late January, also played a role in this winter’s energy crisis experienced in Greece.




New energy fears prompted by delayed Algerian LNG delivery

A delay in the expected arrival of an extraordinary Algerian LNG shipment, which was scheduled to arrive in Greece this Saturday, has raised concerns among local energy authorities, including RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, all coordinating their efforts to combat a new European energy crisis anticipated over the next few days as a result of sub-zero temperatures that have been forecast around the continent.

The delay, caused as the Algerian port at which the LNG order was expected to be loaded remained closed today, means that LNG reserves at the Greek terminal on Revythoussa, an islet just off Athens, will run out on Saturday.

This unexpected LNG shortage will require local authorities to resort to alternatives. The electricity output of Greece’s renewable energy facilities, especially wind farms, will be pivotal. Windy conditions are being hoped for by authorities.

The country’s energy crisis management team is expected to convene today and assess the situation as a result of the delayed Algerian LNG delivery. Emergency measures may need to be taken.

Greece’s energy warning system has remained elevated at Level 2 Alert as local authorities are bracing for heightened pressure on the grid between January 22 and 30.

The grid is operating at full scale to meet local requirements, prompting swift consumption of LNG amounts shipped in to the Revythoussa station, Greece’s only LNG terminal at present.


DEPA chief’s Algiers trip likely to expand dealings with Sonatrach

DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, and Algerian gas company Sonatrach appear likely to expand an existing LNG agreement for supply to the Greek market following a visit to Algeria by DEPA chief executive Theodoros Kitsakos late last month.

The DEPA chief traveled to Algiers for talks with Sonatrach officials and also to take part in the 15th International Energy Forum, held between September 26 and 28 and titled “Global Energy Transition: An Enhanced Role for Energy Dialogue,” DEPA announced.

Kitsakos held talks with Amine Mazouzi, the Sonatrach chief, Mustapha Guitouni, managing director of Sonelgaz, the Algerian state-owned utility in charge of electricity and natural gas distribution, as well as other high-ranked officials to explore the potential for further development of the existing LNG supply deal between DEPA and Sonatrach as well as collaboration in other areas of mutual business interest.

Themes at the international forum covered the oil, gas and renewable energy markets, as well as energy security.

Major global oil players also held an unofficial OPEC meeting as a sideline event to discuss oil production and international prices.

Forum attendees included the Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, the energy ministers of Algeria, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, top officials from major global oil and gas companies, as well as highly-ranked representatives from the International Energy Association (IEA), International Gas Union (IGU) and the International Energy Forum (IEF).




DEPA chief seeks better Sonatrach supply deal during Algeria visit

DEPA (Public Gas Corporation) CEO Theodoros Kitsakos recently held talks in Algeria with Sonatrach gas company officials, one of the objectives being to seek improved terms for an existing LNG supply deal with the Algerian gas company, DEPA has announced.

The prospect of broadening DEPA’s dealings with the Algerian gas company, as part of the Greek corporation’s development plan, was also discussed during the DEPA chief’s visit.

Kitsakos’s agenda for the visit included a working dinner hosted by Greece’s ambassador to Algeria, Ifigenia Kontoleontos.