Brussels forwards new PCI list, to be finalized late this year

The European Commission’s fifth PCI (Projects of Common Interest) list in the electricity and natural gas sectors, being forwarded for public consultation, features, for now, a number of project additions and removals, compared to the previous edition.

Market officials and state authorities will have the opportunity to offer their views and observations over the consultation procedure’s twelve-week period before the European Commission adopts a finalized version of the fifth PCI list towards the end of 2021, based on an existing Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) framework, focused on linking the energy infrastructure of EU countries.

PCI projects are entitled to EU funding support. Brussels authorities introduced selection criteria revisions in December, ascertaining, however, that the impact of all projects, especially on CO2 emissions, will be appraised when finalizing the PCI list’s fifth edition.

The provisional list includes a number of electricity and gas sector projects concerning Greece.

Electricity-sector projects involving Greece include: a Bulgarian-Greek grid interconnection, expected to be completed in 2023; an Egyptian-Greek-Libyan grid interconnection headed by Green Power 2020 and scheduled for delivery in 2025; as well as three Egypt-Greece interconnections, two of these featuring Kykladika Meltemia SA as project promoter and expected to be respectively completed in 2025 and 2028, and a third headed by Elica SA and scheduled for completion in 2028.

An energy storage project planned by Eunice for Ptolemaida, northern Greece, and scheduled for completion in 2022 is a new entry on the PCI list.

In the natural gas sector, the PCI list includes: the Alexandroupoli FSRU (2022); a subsea pipeline between Greece and Italy, known as the Poseidon Pipeline (2025); EastMed, a pipeline planned to carry natural gas from the east Mediterranean to European markets, via Crete (2025); a compressor station in Thessaloniki’s Nea Mesimvria area (2022); a metering and regulating station in Megalopoli, Peloponnese (2025); a compressor station in Abelia, in Greece’s mid-north (2023); a compressor station in Kipoi, northeastern Greece (2024); a pipeline link for the Alexandroupoli FSRU (2022); a TAP pipeline capacity increase (2025); and the development of an underground gas storage facility (UGS) in the almost depleted natural gas field of “South Kavala” in northern Greece (2023).

North Macedonia involvement in key Alexandroupoli projects

North Macedonia plans to help cover its energy needs through an involvement in two Greek-based projects, the prospective FSRU in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, and, in the same region, a gas-fueled power station to run on LNG stemming from the floating LNG terminal.

Much progress has been made on the neighboring country’s interest in these two projects since a meeting in Athens last September between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his North Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev. The partnership also represents a strategic decision for the Greek government.

It is considered certain that a state-owned North Macedonian company will soon enter the Alexandroupoli FSRU project’s equity pool with a 10 percent stake, energypress sources have informed.

This project’s five current partners – Copelouzos group, Gaslog, Greek gas utility DEPA, Greek gas grid operator DESFA and Bulgartransgaz – are expected to each offer small portions of their respective 20 percent stakes to make available a 10 percent stake for the state-owned North Macedonian company in the Alexandroupoli FSRU.

The project’s development is not expected to be impacted by any equity reshuffles.

Two international tenders staged by Gastrade, a company established by the Copelouzos group for the development and operation of the Alexandroupoli FSRU, have been successfully completed. One of the two tender concerns the FSRU’s construction. The other concerns the installation of pipelines linking this facility to the national gas grid.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU consortium is expected to make a final investment decision in late February, sources informed.

On the other front, ESM, North Macedonia’s state electricity company, is expected to acquire a 25 percent stake in a gas-fueled power station to be developed by Damco Energy, a Copelouzos group subsidiary, in Alexandroupoli’s industrial zone.

The initiative will secure 200 MW of the facility’s 800-MW capacity for North Macedonia. The country currently has an electricity deficit of approximately 2 GWh.

Bulgarian state-owned electricity company NEK EAD also appears interested in acquiring a stake in the Alexandroupoli power station. Bulgaria has projected an electricity deficit a few years from now as the country must phase out major lignite-fired power stations. European Commission exemptions extending the lifespans of these units are expiring.

Gas market competition intensifies, TAP lowering prices

Competition has intensified in the country’s wholesale gas market at a time of changing conditions and negotiations for 2021 deals between importers and major-scale consumers, namely electricity producers and industrial enterprises.

Many gas supply contracts expired at the end of 2020, requiring a large number of players to renegotiate deals. Some of these big consumers have already reached new agreements with gas wholesalers.

Market conditions have changed considerably compared to a year earlier. Supply of Azeri gas through the new TAP route has already begun to Greece as well as Bulgaria, increasing overall supply, which has obliged, and permitted, gas utility DEPA to pursue a more aggressive pricing policy as the company pushes to absorb quantities it has committed to through clauses in existing contracts.

Also, the TAP-related increase of gas supply to Bulgaria, combined with this country’s inflow of Russian gas through oil-indexed price agreements, currently relatively cheaper, is now depriving Greek wholesale gas companies of entry into a neighboring market that was available for trading activity last year.

Furthermore, conditions have also been impacted by a competition committee decision no longer requiring DEPA to stage gas auctions to make available a share of its gas orders to rival traders. This measure was introduced and maintained to help liberalize Greece’s gas market.

The new conditions are pushing Greek traders towards more competitive pricing policies. They appear to have acknowledged that their profit margins will be narrower in 2021.

DEPA, helped by the fact that a sizeable proportion of its gas purchases is oil-indexed, is said to be playing a dominant role in the ongoing negotiations for new contracts with customers.

It should be pointed out that, unlike rival gas importers such as Mytilineos, Elpedison and Heron, all benefitting through self-consumption of a large part of their gas orders for gas-fired power stations they operate, DEPA does not self-consume.

Prometheus Gas, a member of the Copelouzos group, remains a formidable player, while the power utility PPC and petroleum company Motor Oil are less influential in the wholesale gas market.

Higher LNG prices, compared to pipeline gas, will decrease demand for LNG this year and weaken the interest of traders for LNG supply through gas grid operator DESFA’s Revythoussa terminal on the islet just off Athens. Last year, this facility was a hot spot of trading activity as a result of lower-priced LNG.

Greek-Italian market coupling, soon, target model’s next step

Domestic market players and officials are eagerly awaiting to see how the target model’s next stage, Greek and Italian day-ahead market coupling, scheduled for December 15, will influence wholesale electricity prices.

Wholesale electricity prices in the day-ahead market and, especially, the balancing market, have escalated since the target model launch in Greece a month and a half ago.

Greece’s market coupling with Italy will be a crucial step as it promises to take Greece to the essence of the target model effort, namely gradual unification of national energy markets – electricity and gas – into one common European market.

Once market coupling is established between Greece and Italy, energy will flow from the country with lower energy prices to the higher-cost country – to the extent permitted by grid interconnection capacities – until price discrepancies have evened out.

All preliminary work for next week’s Greek-Italian market coupling launch has been successfully completed. An ongoing dry-run procedure involving simulated trading will continue until December 12.

The market coupling launch, three days later, is on schedule, the Greek energy exchange has informed RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

Market coupling of Greece and Italy’s balancing markets will take place at a latter date, while Greek-Bulgarian market coupling is planned for early in 2021.

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.

Bulgaria’s BEH reserves local capacity for gas market entry

Bulgaria’s state-owned Bulgarian Energy Holdings, participating in a gas auction staged by Greek gas grid operator DESFA, has reserved gas infrastructure capacity at the national grid’s crossing with the new TAP line in Nea Mesimvria, west of Thessaloniki, establishing a base for entry into the Greek gas market.

Greek gas utility DEPA reserved the biggest share, 29,000 MWh per day, at the auction, while Bulgaria’s BEH secured a smaller share of 3,300 MWh per day.

The DESFA auction offered Nea Mesimvria infrastructure capacities for the first quarter of 2021.

Local market authorities regard the Bulgarian company’s move as a positive step that reignites interest in the Greek market.

It remains to be seen if BEH can attract customers in the Greek market and supply here, or whether its share of TAP line gas, even if modest, will end up being used for Bulgarian market needs.

Either way, the Bulgarian company’s initiative can be interpreted as a positive move by an international player seeing potential in the Greek market.

Significant steps towards maturity have been made in recent years, but the Greek gas market still has ground to cover before reaching levels of liquidity and transparency achieved by major markets and hubs in central and western Europe.

New market dry-run testing to end this week, target model launch on Nov. 1

The dry-run testing procedure for market systems ahead of the forthcoming target model launch, scheduled for November 1, will be finalized at the end of this week, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, the energy exchange and power grid operator IPTO have jointly decided.

Dry-run testing of the day-ahead, intraday and balancing markets began on August 3 to test their limits and operating ability ahead of the target model’s launch, aiming for market coupling, or harmonization of EU wholesale markets.

Market coupling, to increase competition and lower wholesale energy prices, will ultimately lead to energy union, the EU strategy seeking to offer consumers secure, sustainable, competitive and lower-cost energy.

All domestic parties involved, as well as the energy ministry, have ascertained the Greek launch will take place on November 1 following previous delays.

Even during these final days of simulated testing, day-ahead market prices have, at times, continued to display discrepancies with Day-Ahead Schedule price levels.

This has been attributed to the absence, from dry-run testing, of many traders who participate in the Day-Ahead Schedule, meaning the price levels of the two situations are based on different data.

Though balancing market prices have improved considerably as the simulated testing has progressed, following discrepancies, conclusions cannot be made until actual market conditions come into effect.

Meanwhile, public consultation by RAE on a market monitoring mechanism and a market surveillance mechanism for the new markets is due to be completed next Monday.

The market monitoring mechanism will seek, through structural and performance indicators, to evaluate levels of concentration and the market power of each participant, while the market surveillance mechanism will focus on identifying and combating strategies detrimental to competition.

The next step, once the new markets are launched, will be to market couple, initially with the Italian market, by the end of the year, followed by the Bulgarian market, in the first quarter of 2021, Greek energy minister Costis Hatzidakis recently informed.

 

 

Extraordinary conditions push SMP as high as €105 per MWh

Extraordinary conditions resulting from coinciding temporary closures of various power facilities, both in Greece and abroad, have pushed up the System Marginal Price, or wholesale electricity, to levels of as much as 105 euros per MWh, as was the case yesterday.

Four domestic gas-fired power stations – Enthes (Elpedison), Heron CC, Lavrio IV and Protergia – were out of order yesterday, for different reasons.

Problems beyond the Greek border have made matters worse. Bulgaria’s 1,000-MW Kozloduy nuclear power plant is currently out of order. The Greek-Bulgarian line serves as a transit route towards North Macedonia as a line linking Bulgaria and North Macedonia is out of order. So, too, is a line linking Greece with Italy.

Power stations that rarely operate, such as an open-cycle Heron unit, needed to be called into action as a result of the problems on these various fronts. Their necessary contributions pushed the SMP to far higher levels.

Three power utility PPC lignite-fired power stations, Agios Dimitrios II and III and Melitis, along with PPC’s gas-fired power stations Aliveri V, Lavrio V, Komotini, Megalopoli V, as well as units run by the independent energy firms Heron, Thisvi and Corinth Power, all needed to be called into action to cover the grid’s needs.

The market appears to have normalized for today. SMP levels are down to relatively satisfactory levels, averaging 44.49 euros per MWh, primarily as a result of significant RES contributions, covering more than 50 percent of the overall demand, 123.993 GWh.

The lignite-fired power stations used yesterday – Agios Dimitrios II and III and Melitis – will remain closed today.

Local gas-fueled generation up in response to high-cost power imports

Higher electricity prices in neighboring countries, increasing the cost of electricity imports, have prompted power utility PPC to capitalize on the situation and operate its gas-fueled power stations at maximum capacity for satisfactory market prices.

In recent days, PPC’s natural gas-fueled units have covered between 35 and 40 percent of electricity demand.

Yesterday, the power utility’s gas-fueled power stations covered 40 percent of electricity demand at a price of 42.6 euros per MWh for ten hours.

Independent producers covered 19 percent of electricity demand at a price of 64.4 euros per MWh for one hour.

Electricity imports covered 14 percent of electricity demand for a price of 51.7 euros per MWh over 11 hours.

Renewable energy sources covered 24 percent of electricity demand yesterday, while the decreased lignite input continued on its downward trajectory, contributing 3.6 GWh.

In Bulgaria, the wholesale electricity price was 53.14 euros per MWh. In Italy, it was 51.93 euros per MWh. Romania registered a price level of 51.7 euros per MWh. The price in Serbia was 49.91 euros per MWh.

Bulgaria gas pipeline explosion highlights need for local projects

Yesterday’s Bulgarian gas pipeline explosion in Bulgaria, prompting a supply cut into Greece from a northern route, yet again highlights how vital it is for Greece to develop two gas infrastructure project plans in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, and Kavala, in the north.

The explosion of this pipeline, carrying Russian gas into Greece via Bulgaria, has not affected Greece’s energy security as supply from the alternate Kipoi route remains uninterrupted, while the contribution of high LNG reserves at the Revythoussa terminal, just off Athens, has also been crucially important.

However, a Greek energy crisis could have resulted if this accident were more serious, or if the Revythoussa facility did not exist, or, worse still, the accident coincided with even greater Greek-Turkish tensions than at present, which could have meant a cut in gas supply from Turkey, hosting one of Greece’s key gas import corridors.

The intensifying geopolitical instability of the wider region, which includes Turkey, an extremely troubling neighbor, makes imperative the existence of sufficient gas storage facilities to safeguard Greece’s energy security. Despite the precarious conditions in the region, Greece remains one of the European countries without sufficient energy storage infrastructure.

In addition to the existing Revythoussa LNG terminal, Greece’s infrastructure definitely needs to be reinforced by projects such as the Alexandroupoli FSRU and an underground gas storage facility at a virtually depleted offshore deposit south of Kavala.

 

Long-standing DESFA northern Greece pipeline plan scrapped

Gas grid operator DESFA has scrapped plans for a natural gas pipeline that had been envisioned to run across northern Greece, from Komotini in the northeast to Thesprotia in the northwest, after maintaining the project in the company’s business plans for about a decade.

DESFA reached this decision as Russian President Vladimir Putin is supporting Gazprom’s development of a second branch for the wider Turkish Stream gas project, deviating Ukraine, to supply the Balkans and central Europe via Bulgaria, not Greece, as was initially considered.

A first Turkish Stream branch supplying Russian gas to Turkey is already operating.

“The project remained on the business plan for approximately ten years without progressing to the construction stage, while there is no sign of conditions leading to its construction in the immediate future,” DESFA announced.

The Komotini-Thesprotia pipeline project was budgeted at 1.8 billion euros.

The total cost of projects included in DEFSA’s development plan for 2021-2030 is now budgeted at 545.5 million euros.

Wholesale electricity prices rising, up to €47.30/MWh today

Wholesale electricity prices, determined by the System Marginal Price, are rebounding following a significant drop over the past few weeks.

The rise is being fueled by an anticipated increase in demand. A sidelined 600-MW line linking Greece with Bulgaria, depriving the system of electricity imports via this route, as well as a disruption in operations at an Elpedison power plant in Thessaloniki are two other contributing factors.

In addition, the Revythoussa LNG terminal just off Athens is not under any pressure, a factor subduing gas-fired unit bids and subsequently lowering the SMP.

Based on grid orders placed for today, the SMP has climbed to 47.30 euros per MWh, up from a level of around 30 euros per MWh five days earlier and 14.20 euros per MWh on May 1. Bidding by units has gradually risen since early May.

Demand, today, for domestic consumption and exports is estimated to reach 127 GWh, 40 percent of which is planned to be covered by natural gas-fired power stations, 30 percent by RES and hydropower plants, 23 percent by electricity imports, and 7 percent by lignite-fired power stations.

The SMP level will be determined by gas-fired power stations for 22 hours today, lignite-based generation will shape the price for one hour and imports for the remaining hour.

Electricity imports up, gas-fueled power stations running non-stop

A significant drop in gas prices, especially LNG, as well as the availability of particularly lower wholesale electricity prices in neighboring countries have prompted major changes to the country’s Day Ahead Schedule.

Electricity imports via interconnections with Bulgaria, Italy, North Macedonia and Turkey have risen to represent just under 30 percent of overall consumption.

Demand for an even greater level of imports during certain time periods has not been met as a result of infrastructure capacity limits.

Renewable energy generation, also making considerable contributions to the grid’s needs, has, at times, exceeded 30 percent of total consumption.

Gas-fueled power stations operated by independent producers are now operating around the clock, not just during peak hours, as had previously been the case. Offers by these units are now very competitively priced.

Gas-fueled power stations are currently covering over 30 percent of total consumption and lowering wholesale prices.

On the contrary, power utility PPC’s production is covering smaller amounts of daily electricity consumption. The utility’s contribution, currently slightly over 10 percent, primarily stems from its lignite-fired power stations.

Alexandroupoli FSRU market test offers total 2.6 bcm, viability assured

Binding capacity reservations for the prospective Alexandroupoli FSRU in northeastern Greece, whose second-round market test expired on Tuesday afternoon, amounted to 2.6 bcm, a tally that secures the project’s sustainability and paves the way for a finalized investment decision, energypress sources have informed.

Two Greek utilities, gas company DEPA and power company PPC, are among the participants who have reserved capacities, for long-term periods, the sources noted.

Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz and a Serbian company also confirmed earlier requests for capacity reservations.

Romania’s Romgaz did not turn up for the market test’s second round after expressing interest for a considerable capacity covering a lengthy period in the first round. Instead, two private-sector Romanian trading companies ended up submitting binding offers for Alexandroupoli FSRU capacities.

The Bulgarian, Serbian and Romanian interest highlights the potential of the Alexandroupoli FSRU to serve as a new natural gas gateway for southeast European markets, via the Greek-Bulgarian IGB pipeline, now under construction, as well as other existing and planned gas pipelines in the region.

IPTO: Thessaloniki RSC headquarters for southeast Europe in July

A Regional Security Coordinator (RSC) role for Thessaloniki planned by Greek power grid operator IPTO with its Romanian and Bulgarian peers, Transelectrica and ESO-EAD, respectively, will be ready for launch, from its headquarters in the northern Greek city, in the first week of July, energypress sources have informed.

IPTO chief executive Manos Manousakis has declared the headquarters for southeast Europe’s RSC will be in Thessaloniki.

The Thessaloniki RSC plan was established by the Greek, Romanian and Bulgarian operators following years of negotiations with ENTSO-E, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity.

According to EU law, all European operators must, as of 2020, hand over a list of responsibilities to one regional security coordinator with headquarters at an EU member state.

These responsibilities include capacity calculation coordination, common network model development and regional security coordination.

East Med, IGB, Alexandroupoli FSRU upgrading Greek role

Three major energy projects of international dimension, the East Med and IGB natural gas pipelines, as well as the Alexandroupoli FSRU (Floating Storage Regasification Unit), all once seeming distant prospects, are now gradually turning into a close reality.

Their development promise to transform Greece into an energy hub and upgrade the country’s geopolitical standing in the fragile southeast Mediterranean and Balkan regions.

The leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel are set to sign a trilateral agreement for East Med, to carry natural gas to Europe via these countries and Italy, at a meeting in Athens on January 2. The transmission capacity of this project, measuring 2,000 km, will range between 10 to 20 billion cubic meters. Italy is also expected to eventually join the partnership for this project.

Its development prospects have been further propelled by a decision from Poseidon, a 50-50 joint venture involving Greek gas utility DEPA and Italy’s Edison, to accelerate the completion of all pending issues needed for the project’s maturity.

The trilateral agreement promises to further bolster ties between Greece, Cyprus and Israel amid a period of heightened regional intensity. Turkish provocation has escalated. An East Med Gas Forum to take place in Cairo January 15 and 16 with participation from the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority should help expand the alliance.

The Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas pipeline is expected to have begun operating far sooner, in July, 2021. DEPA holds a 25 percent stake in ICGB, the consortium overseeing the IGB project, whose initial capacity will be 3 bcm. Through this pipeline, DEPA plans to supply the Bulgarian market with Azeri gas hailing from the TAP route, and, as a result, break, for the first time, the existing Russian monopoly in the neighboring market.

The IGB will not only be fed by TAP, running westwards across northern Greece for Azeri supply to Europe. The Alexandroupoli FSRU to be anchored off coastal Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, will also feed the IGB, enabling an alternative gas supply source for Bulgaria, other east European countries, and Ukraine.

DEPA is also involved in this project. The gas utility has just decided to acquire a 20 percent stake in Gastrade, the company developing the FSRU project in Alexandroupoli.

Leading Washington officials have expressed their support for the East Med, IGB and Alexandroupoli FSRU projects. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be seeking confirmation of this backing on an upcoming official trip to the US from President Donald Trump himself.

 

Elpedison makes dynamic gas market move for 2020, Balkans also eyed

Elpedison’s strong turnout for gas grid operator DESFA’s annual reservation of LNG slots at the Revythoussa terminal just off Athens highlights the company’s strategic decision aiming for a leading role in the wholesale gas market, which it entered last year.

Elpedison has reserved 22 slots, roughly one-third of a total of 65 slots offered by DESFA for the terminal in 2020.

Mytilineos, the country’s biggest LNG importer, also booked 22 slots. Gas utility DEPA reserved 14 slots, while Heron booked seven slots.

Elpedison considers its involvement in the wholesale and retail gas markets just as important as its activities in the electricity market, chief executive Nikos Zahariadis underlined in comments to energypress. Elpedison will bolster its gas market presence in 2020, he added.

Storage and gasification capacity increases at the Revythoussa LNG terminal have played an instrumental role in helping liberalize Greece’s gas market. This development, along with lower-priced LNG, compared to pipeline gas, has created market prospects and opportunities. Elpedison operates two gas-fueled power plants.

Besides the Greek market, Elpedison, just like all other corporate groups importing and trading gas, also sees opportunities in Balkan markets. The company already sells modest gas quantities in Bulgaria and Romania but is aiming for a significant increase in 2020.

Greece is developing into a gas hub for supply to the wider southeast European region, Zahariadis, Elpedison’s chief executive, noted. Major international gas infrastructure projects such as the TAP, IGB, Alexandroupoli FSRU and underground gas storage facility in the offshore South Kavala region are expected to be completed within the next few years, he stressed.

 

DEPA examining Alexandroupoli FSRU stake, role in privatization

Gas utility DEPA is contemplating its entry into the equity line-up of an FSRU planned for Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, and, if so, whether this stake would be incorporated into DEPA Trade or DEPA Infrastructure, two new divisions to emerge ahead of the utility’s upcoming privatization.

DEPA’s stake in the Alexandroupoli FSRU, expected to be 20 percent, would make a good selling point for DEPA Trade ahead of the privatization. Finalized decisions by the DEPA board are expected soon. Neighboring Bulgaria’s liberalized gas market, in which DEPA already enjoys a presence, will be taken into account.

A project budgeted at 380 million euros, the Alexandroupoli FSRU, promoted by Gastrade, has reached a very mature investment phase. The unit is planned to be moored 17.6 kilometers southwest of the Alexandroupoli port.

According to the project plan, the facility’s LNG storage capacity will be between 150,000 and 170,000 cubic meters, while LNG regasification will be performed at the FSRU and then transported to mainland pipelines via a 28-kilometer pipeline, of which 24 kilometers will be under water.

The details of the DEPA Trade and DEPA Infrastructure privatizations still remain uncertain. According to some sources, both procedures could be staged concurrently and offer investors as much as 65 percent of each division, in other words, the Greek State’s entire stake in DEPA. Hellenic Petroleum ELPE owns the other 35 percent of DEPA.

DG Comp lists Greek electricity market issues needing action

Greece has been handed a list of pending electricity market issues, old and recent, requiring urgent government action at a meeting between the country’s finance minister Hristos Staikouras and European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager in Athens just over a week ago, sources informed.

The delay of a market coupling plan for the Greek and Bulgarian electricity markets, as well as uncertainty surrounding Greece’s operating schedule for lignite-fired power stations this coming winter and, by extension, its impact on natural gas-fueled units and the market’s liberalization, are among the urgent matters listed by Vestager.

The Danish politician will continue to head the DG Comp following last May’s European Parliament election.

In February, 2017, DG Comp officials had ambushed the Athens headquarters of power utility PPC and power grid operator IPTO to collect data for a market abuse investigation.

Brussels officials are continuing their probe with further questioning, it is believed. No findings have been released, but these will undoubtedly be published once Brussels deems the time is right.

The DG Comp moves methodically when dealing with such matters. In France, for example, the authority last week ordered Paris to open up the country’s hydropower production to competition after launching an investigation into French energy utility EDF’s market dominance back in 2015.

 

IGB agreement, target model on agenda of minister’s Sofia visit

The signing of a Greek-Bulgarian bilateral agreement for the IGB gas grid interconnector, a project of major geopolitical significance, may be at the top of the agenda of the energy ministry leadership’s official visit to Sofia tomorrow and Thursday, but the target model, also on the agenda, is just as crucial.

The target model is vital as it entails the coupling of the Greek and Bulgarian electricity markets, needed for the establishment of regional electricity market, a key EU energy policy.

Given the Sofia trip’s demands, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis will be joined by his deputy Gerassimos Thomas.

Hatzidakis, on this trip, is expected to sign a bilateral agreement for the IGB gas pipeline’s construction and operation. A shareholders’ agreement and a European Investment Bank (EIB) loan agreement for the project are also planned to be signed.

The Greek-Bulgarian gas pipeline project, measuring 182 kilometers, will link Komotini, in Greece’s northeast, with Stara Zagora, creating a second interconnection point for the Greek and Bulgarian gas systems, in addition to an existing station in nearby Sidirokastro.

The new project, to offer an annual capacity of 5 billion cubic meters, will begin operating at a lower capacity level of 3 billion cubic meters.

The IGB pipeline is planned to be linked to the TAP project, running across northern Greece. Combined with the Bulgaria-Romania and Bulgaria-Serbia interconnections, the IGB will contribute to the establishment of a vertical corridor through the Balkans and connect central Balkan countries with Caspian gas supply.

IGB bilateral agreement for construction start to be signed in Sofia

A Greek-Bulgarian bilateral agreement enabling the commencement of construction work on the IGB gas grid interconnector is set to signed in Sofia during a two-day meeting scheduled for October 9 and 10.

Complementary agreements concerning the project, the most significant of these being a shareholders’ agreement and a loan agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB), will also be signed by officials over the two days.

The Greek-Bulgarian pipeline project, measuring 182 kilometers, will link Komotini, in Greece’s northeast, with Stara Zagora. It will serve as a second interconnection point for the Greek and Bulgarian gas systems, in addition to an existing station in nearby Sidirokastro.

The new project, to offer an annual capacity of 5 billion cubic meters, will commence operating at a lower level of 3 billion cubic meters.

The IGB pipeline is planned to be linked with TAP, running across northern Greece. Combined with the Bulgaria-Romania and Bulgaria-Serbia interconnections, the IGB will contribute to the establishment of the vertical corridor through the Balkans and connect central Balkan countries with Caspian gas and the TAP pipeline.

IGB’s planning, construction and operation has been taken on by ICGB, the project’s Sofia-based consortium, a 50-50 joint venture representing the state-controlled Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) and IGI Poseidon, involving Greek gas utility DEPA and Edison.

Balkans-focused energy forum on eve of Thessaloniki fair

Two key regional gas pipeline projects involving Greece and backed by the US, the Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas grid interconnection and a pipeline to link Greece and North Macedonia, will be at the center of attention in talks between energy minister Costis Hatzidakis and peers at the Southeast Europe Energy Forum in Thessaloniki on September 6, a day ahead of the opening of this year’s Thessaloniki International Fair.

Hatzidakis and the US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, will be key speakers at the forum, where speeches will also be delivered by the energy ministers of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Israel, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia.

Besides the prospective gas pipeline from Greece to North Macedonia, the talks between Hatzidakis and his North Macedonian peer will also focus on an upgrade of the electricity grid interconnection linking the systems of the two countries, as well as an upcoming relaunch of the Okta oil pipeline, stretching from an ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) facility in Thessaloniki to the company’s Okta refinery and storage facility in North Macedonia.

The gas pipeline is the most important project of the three as an interconnection of the Greek and North Macedonian gas systems does not exist.

The Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas interconnection, along with TAP, to carry Azeri natural gas through northern Greece, Albania and across the Adriatic Sea to central Europe via Italy, are Greece’s two most significant international energy projects.

They promise to further diversify Europe’s energy sources and weaken Russia’s dominance in the region.

Meanwhile, Russia is promoting its own energy and geopolitical interests in the region. Last month, Greece was excluded from Turkish Stream, a Russian-Turkish gas pipeline plan whose second segment is now planned to run through Bulgaria, not Greece.

The first segment of this gas pipeline project is planned to supply Russian natural gas to the Turkish market and the second to Europe’s south and southeast.

 

PPC subsidiary planning further expansion in Bulgaria

Many aspects concerning the future course of state-controlled power utility PPC may still be unclear following the change of government brought about by last weekend’s elections but one thing for certain is that plans will be laid out to increase the utility’s business activities in foreign markets through its subsidiaries abroad.

One example is Bulgaria, where PPC has already achieved some success in the neighboring country’s electricity market, which it entered in 2015.

Presenting PPC Bulgaria’s main strategic objectives at a recent economic forum in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city, the subsidiary’s chief executive director Alexandra Psyrri made note of the company’s favorable results, so far, as well as the opportunities offered by Bulgaria’s wholesale energy market.

PPC Bulgaria aims to further expand its profitable activities based on a business plan that also includes electricity supply across the border, Psyrri told the forum.

PPC Bulgaria’s annual turnover reaches 4.9 million euros, she noted.

 

 

Greek power producers also eyeing Balkan export potential

The country’s power producers are focusing on the market prospects of  neighboring countries along with a heightened interest in Greece’s electricity market as a result of the upcoming elections, seen bringing the main opposition New Democracy party into power for more decisive reform action at power utility PPC, and intensified market competition.

Investments plans by PPC, currently developing its Ptolemaida V power station, as well as by private-sector enterprises, which have announced plans for five new state-of-the-art units, are expected to create an overabundance of electricity, even of all these plans are not executed. This is one of three main factors turning the attention of power producers to neighboring markets.

Also, it has become clear that Balkan markets lack flexibility in electricity generation as they primarily depend on coal, while gas networks that could support flexible gas-fueled power stations in the region are insufficient.

A third factor contributing to the heightened the interest of local producers for energy-related business in the wider region is Greek power grid operator IPTO’s ongoing upgrade of Greece’s grid interconnections with neighboring countries, especially Bulgaria and North Macedonia, which promises to create greater export potential.

Besides the independent producers, PPC is also looking to capitalize on this export potential.

DEPA makes first ever gas sale abroad with Bulgargaz order

Greek gas utility DEPA has taken a first step towards actualizing an international trading role in the wider Balkan region, a strategy mapped out by its administration, by clinching a deal to supply a 1.5 million-MW quantity of natural gas to Bulgaraz. The development represents DEPA’s first natural gas sale abroad.

DEPA was the winning bidder of an auction staged by the Bulgarian energy company for its first ever purchase of natural gas not stemming from Russia’s Gazprom Export, the Balkan country’s standard gas supplier through a long-term supply agreement.

Besides DEPA, the Bulgaraz auction also involved Dutch company Colmar and Bulgaria’s Dexia.

The natural gas quantity ordered by Bulgaraz through its auction is scheduled to be delivered by the summer through a Greek-Bulgarian pipeline connection. Russian gas reaches Greece through this reverse-flow pipeline.

DEPA, as part of its plan to expand its gas trading activities in the wider Balkan region, is seeking Gazprom permission to sell Russian gas in Balkan markets. Gazprom has yet to offer such an approval.

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.

 

 

 

Name agreement developing Fyrom into ELPE oil hub

A bilateral agreement between Greece and Fyrom (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) for a change of name by the latter to the Republic of North Macedonia is providing further momentum to talks between ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) and the neighboring country’s government for the reopening of an oil pipeline stretching 213 kilometers from the Greek petroleum group’s Thessaloniki facilities to its Okta company refinery across the northern border.

The two sides are close to finalizing an agreement for the pipeline’s relaunch, sources informed. The facility was shut down in 2013 when ELPE decided it was no longer feasible to keep it running.

The Greek company used the pipeline as a channel of transportation for crude from its Thessaloniki plant to the Okta unit in Fyrom.

Road networks have been used to supply fuels to Fyrom since 2013 but transportation costs and smuggling activity have risen sharply at the expense of both Fyrom and ELPE, the neighboring market’s main supplier.

Besides supplying the Fyrom market, ELPE’s Okta refinery also promises to serve as a hub for the wider region. Wider growth in Balkan countries over recent years was a catalyst in the ELPE board’s decision to reopen the pipeline to its Okta plant.

ELPE maintains a market presence in Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and Fyrom, operating more than 200 petrol stations in total. The pipeline’s reopening is expected to facilitate ELPE’s entry into new markets.

 

ELPE oil pipeline from Thessaloniki to Fyrom seen reopening March

An oil pipeline stretching 213 kilometers from Greek petroleum group  ELPE’s Thessaloniki facilities in the country’s north to its Okta company refinery across the northern border in Fyrom (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) is expected to reopen around March after the firm ceased using this channel in 2013, ruling it, at the time, as inefficient and unprofitable.

The ensuing road transportation of fuels has sharply increased costs and smuggling activity.

ELPE and Fyrom’s administration are ready for the oil pipeline’s reopening, sources have informed. However, constitutional changes concerning a bilateral agreement for Fyrom’s name change to the Republic of North Macedonia, requiring several rounds of voting in parliament, still need to be completed before oil quantities can be transported through this pipeline.

The ELPE group is currently using its Okta company refinery as a storage facility. Balkan regional growth experienced in recent years has rekindled the Greek petroleum firm’s interest in the Okta unit as a transit center for distribution of petroleum products in Fyrom and other countries in the region.

ELPE maintains a market presence in Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and Fyrom, operating over 200 petrol stations.

The Thessaloniki-Fyrom oil pipeline’s reopening is expected to significantly reduce fuel transportation costs to these markets.

 

Elpedison set to begin importing gas via Bulgarian link in 2019

Energy firm Elpedison has finalized all details, including grid capacity reservations, to begin importing natural gas into Greece as of 2019 via the Greek-Bulgarian interconnection, according to sources.

The company’s move, promising to add Elpedison to a growing number of major domestic energy players engaging in cross-border natural gas trade, aims to improve the firm’s supply mix and bolster its portfolio.

Elpedison is expected to begin importing at levels of 500 MWh with a view to increasing amounts.

Besides the gas utility DEPA, three private-sector players, Promitheas – a member of the Copelouzos group – Mytilineos and Heron, are already importing natural gas through the Greek-Bulgarian border.

The Greek-Bulgarian border was opened for natural gas trade in 2017 following agreements signed by the respective gas grid operators of the two countries.

Elpedison’s turn to natural gas follows its already heightened level of cross-border electricity trading activity, reaching as far as central Europe and Hungary.

Elpedison, on a positive course, is expected to end 2018 with favorable EBITDA results.

 

DESFA, Botas working on deal to liberalize Greek entry point

Greek gas grid operator DESFA and Turkish state-run crude oil and gas company Botas are working on an agreement concerning the Kipous grid interconnection in Evros, at Greece’s northeastern tip, which would enable third parties, in addition to Greek gas utility DEPA, to use the link as an entry point for natural gas imports.

DESFA has already reached an equivalent agreement with Bulgarian operator Bulgartransgaz for the gas grid interconnection at Sidirokastro, by the Greek-Bulgarian border. Subsequently, since 2017, five new firms besides DEPA, until then Greece’s only natural gas importer from this entry point, have brought gas quantities into the local market via the Sidirokastro link.

DEFSA and Botas have now been engaged in talks over the matter for several months. It is unclear how much more time will be needed for an agreement.

Their negotiations are focused on technical measure-related issues and a reverse-flow agreement that would also enable gas outflow from Greece to Turkey.