Hybrid RES station support for non-interconnected islands

The energy ministry is preparing to legislate a framework approved by the  offering operational support for hybrid RES stations on non-interconnected islands. The initiative is planned to provide support for the development of hybrid stations representing a total capacity of 264 MW by the end of 2026.

Hybrid stations on non-interconnected islands will be divided into three sub-categories, based on how they will secure tariffs, energypress sources informed. One category will exclusively carry projects based on Crete, a second category will group together small islands not planned to be linked to the mainland grid through power grid operator IPTO’s grid interconnection projects, while a third category will concern islands being interconnected.

Regardless of category, all hybrid stations eligible for the new operational support system will receive support for 20-year periods. The support system will offer funds totaling 1.4 billion euros.

On Crete, the support system is expected to provide support for the development of hybrid power stations representing a total of 120 MW, including 84 MW in hybrid RES projects already at advanced licensing stages.

These specific projects have been granted priority status, a move endorsed by the Directorate-General for Competition, to help cover Crete’s energy insufficiency issues until a grid link from the island to Athens is completed.

 

Crete hydrocarbon hopes lifted by initial seismic survey results

Initial findings of ongoing seismic surveys conducted at licenses off Crete have raised hopes of significant hydrocarbon discoveries, government officials have told an event staged by EDEYEP, the Hellenic Hydrocarbons and Energy Resources Management Company.

If the upbeat prospects generated by emerging data are confirmed during drilling, then quantities to be extracted off Crete will cover Europe’s projected energy insufficiencies, government officials contended on the sidelines of the EDEYEP event, staged last night to mark its transition from EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company.

A recent report released by IEA, the International Energy Agency, notes Europe will face annual energy shortages of 30 billion cubic meters for ten years, even if renewables, biogas and hydrogen are brought in to replace Russian natural gas quantities.

Norwegian company PGS is currently conducting 2D surveys at offshore blocks west and southwest of Crete on behalf of ExxonMobil and Helleniq Energy, formerly ELPE.

Local authorities expect drilling at these licenses to commence in early 2025.

Domestic upstream activity has increased, EDEYEP president Rikard Skoufias told the company event, noting seven seismic surveys have been staged in Greece over an eight-month period compared to just two over the past decade.

 

ExxonMobil drilling for gas off Crete may begin a year earlier

ExxonMobil could begin drilling at licenses offshore Crete a year earlier than planned as the American energy giant tends to adopt a more direct approach when exploring for natural gas, sector authorities have noted.

Such was the case at Cyprus’ Block 10, for which ExxonMobil conducted seismic surveys before skipping the 3D survey stage to go straight ahead with drilling that led to the discovery of the Glafkos deposit, the officials pointed out.

A consortium comprised of ExxonMobil and Helleniq Energy, formerly ELPE, holds licenses for two offshore Crete blocks, one west of the island, the other southwest. The consortium has commissioned PGS to conduct 2D seismic surveys at both these licenses. They are in full progress and are expected to be completed towards the end of January.

According their original plan, ExxonMobil and Helleniq Energy planned to follow up with 3D surveys at the end of 2023 or early in 2024. However, if ExxonMobil, the consortium’s operator, opts to skip the 3D surveys, initial drilling offshore Crete will begin sooner, in 2024, instead of 2025.

Elsewhere, in the Ionian Sea, a consortium made up of Helleniq Energy and Energean expects to have the results of 3D surveys at three blocks, Ionio, Kyparissiakos, and Block 2, by the end of 2023 or early in 2024. It will then decide if it will continue with initial drilling.

 

Crete added to first-round list of offshore wind farm areas

Crete will be included on a list of regions selected for first-round development of offshore wind farms, planned to offer an installed capacity of 2 GW by 2030, joining Alexandroupoli, in northeastern Greece, already chosen by the energy ministry through a legislative procedure, Alexandra Sdoukou, the ministry’s secretary-general, has revealed at an industry conference.

No further details were given on the Cretan offshore area to be chosen for the first-round development of offshore wind farms, through licenses offered at auction.

One or two more offshore areas, already identified, will be added to the list of Organized Offshore Wind Farm Development Areas (POAYAP), Sdoukou informed the event. However, the energy ministry official did not name these areas, noting she could not elaborate as related talks with respective local authorities were still in progress.

Sdoukou noted the 2030 target will be to mobilize private investment of 6.3 billion euros, when referring to the results of research conducted by consultancy group Grant Thornton on the added value for the national economy to result from this new RES sub-sector.

Of these funds, 4.3 billion euros will flow directly into the domestic economy, creating up to 8,220 new jobs by the end of this decade, she added.

During the creation of an institutional framework for offshore wind farms, Sdoukou commissioned a team of experts to survey the Greek seas, as a covert operation, with assistance from the foreign affairs, defence and tourism ministries, she told the conference.

It was organized by the Hellenic Hydrocarbons and Energy Resources Management Company (HEREMA/EDEYEP), the Greek Wind Energy Association (ELETAEN), and Grant Thornton, under the auspices of the energy ministry.

 

 

Offshore Crete seismic surveys pave way for drilling in 2025-26

A consortium headed by ExxonMobil plans to begin conducting seismic surveys at licenses south and southwest of Crete this winter, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced yesterday, confirming previous energypress reports.

The timing of the prospective surveys is in line with a schedule announced earlier this year by HEREMA, the Hellenic Hydrocarbons and Energy Resources Management Company, which envisaged surveys for the winter of 2022-2023.

The seismic surveys are expected to be followed by higher-definition 3D surveys in 2024. If all goes according to plan, initial drilling at the offshore Cretan blocks could take place in 2025 and 2026, which, if successful, would result in development of hydrocarbon deposits in 2027, leading to production in 2029.

ExxonMobil increased its stake in a consortium holding licenses for two offshore Cretan blocks following a recent decision by France’s TotalEnergies to withdraw from the venture. ExxonMobil acquired TotalEnergies’ share to now hold a 70 percent share in the consortium as the venture’s operator. Helleniq Energy, formerly named ELPE, is the venture’s junior partner.

Older seismic surveys conducted in 2015 by Norway’s PGS for Helleniq Energy – operating, at the time, as ELPE – at the two offshore Cretan blocks south and southwest of the island showed promising signs of a major natural gas deposit.

 

ExxonMobil-Helleniq Energy seismic surveys off Crete

US oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil has been conducting seismic surveys under complete secrecy and at a rapid pace over the past week or so at two offshore block licenses, west and southwest of Crete, held with Helleniq Energy, formerly named ELPE, as its junior partner.

The two blocks share similar geological traits with Egypt’s giant offshore Zohr gas field and, according to early estimates, may contain rich natural gas quantities.

American presence is being assured, through ExxonMobil, in the southeast Mediterranean region at a particularly critical geopolitical period, both because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Turkey’s provocative moves against Greece (aggressive rhetoric and the Libya pact), political analysts told energypress.

ExxonMobil acted swiftly to increase its stake in a consortium holding licenses for the two offshore Cretan blocks following a recent  decision by France’s TotalEnergies to withdraw. ExxonMobil acquired TotalEnergies’ share to now hold a 70 percent share in the consortium as the venture’s operator.

The ExxonMobil-led seismic surveys off Crete, which began on October 24, are being conducted by Norway’s PGS and the company’s Sanco Swift seismic vessel. It is conducting 3D surveys, meaning ExxonMobil is focusing on specific areas for possible natural gas deposits.

IPTO set to join EuroAsia Interconnector by year’s end

Power grid operator IPTO is expected to join EuroAsia Interconnector, a Cypriot company established to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids, by the end of the year.

IPTO’s anticipated board approval of the company’s agreement with EuroAsia Interconnector is the next step in IPTO’s process of acquiring a stake in the company, expected to be at least 25 percent.

EuroAsia Interconnector accepted an official proposal submitted by IPTO in late July. Speaking at the recent Thessaloniki International Fair, IPTO president Manos Manousakis noted EuroAsia Interconnector’s acceptance of the Greek power grid operator’s terms ensures IPTO’s participation in the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grid interconnection, a project of strategic importance.

Once the IPTO board approves the agreement, the operator will need to conduct due diligence, expected to take place within the next month or two.

The deal for IPTO’s acquisition of a stake in EuroAsia Interconnector is expected to include terms for a further stake increase in the Cypriot company.

The agreement’s technical and financial details promise to propel the development of the Crete-Cyprus segment of the overall project, the most mature of all segments.

The Crete-Cyprus segment will end the electricity isolation of Cyprus, the EU’s only remaining member state still disconnected from fellow member states, and also boost Greece’s role as an electricity transmission hub in southeast Europe.

A total of 898 kilometers of subsea cables are planned to be installed at a depth of up to 3,000 meters for the Crete-Cyprus grid link.

 

Crete’s Hydrocarbon Potential to be Unveiled by the End of 2023⏐Upstream Development Programme in Full Swing⏐HEREMA’s Role in the Advancement of Offshore Windfarms

Greece’s upstream exploration programme offshore Crete is proceeding without delays, with a first assessment of the two concessions’ natural gas potential expected by the end of 2023. This was the message delivered by the CEO of the Hellenic Hydrocarbons and Energy Resources Management Company (HEREMA), Aris Stefatos, during a press conference held alongside the company’s Chairman Rikard Scoufias. 

Following the withdrawal of TotalEnergies earlier this year from the blocks dubbed “West of Crete” and “Southwest of Crete”, U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil significantly upped its stake in both concessions, raising this from 40% to 70% for E&P activities, while also assuming the operatorship. Likewise, Greece-based Hellenic Petroleum increased its participation in both areas from 20% to 30%.

ExxonMobil has prepared an upgraded work programme for the first phase of upstream exploration activities – anticipating faster and higher quality results – with delivery expected within a 2-year period instead of the 3 years companies have at their disposal for said exploration stage.

According to Stefatos, any delays in the Cretan concessions can be attributed to the fact that the previous operator did not complete the minimum work programme within the stipulated three-year term. He added that HEREMA’s exploration program is well underway, in accordance with the company’s underlying strategy “Hydrocarbons 2.0”, underpinned by three pillars:

  • Accelerating the development of Greece’s upstream sector with a particular focus on natural gas.
  • Expanding the scope of HEREMA to new energy technologies that can support Greece’s country’s energy transition.
  • Strengthening governance and ensuring HEREMA has the capacity and resources to meet all aspects of its mandate.

Regarding the first pillar, in February 2022 the leadership of HEREMA launched an ambitious investor outreach programme targeting energy majors.  The company’s management noted that the results so far have being particularly encouraging.

Discussions are ongoing with companies that have expressed an interest in entering the Greek upstream sector, with priority being placed on concessions where there is a single investor. While Mr. Stefatos confirmed that another licensing round is not off the table, he stressed the importance of drawing in investors to pre-existing concessions.

HEREMA is also set to play a key role in the development of offshore wind parks in Greek seas, in accordance with its legally expanded work scope, leveraging upon the company’s wealth of expertise in offshore operations. It’s important to underline that offshore oil and gas installations boast strong similarities to the platforms used in offshore wind installations. To this end, the company is being strengthened with specialized technical personnel and the relevant logistical infrastructure to enable it to deliver upon its expanded remit.

HEREMA has been carrying out one-to-one discussions with interested parties, including potential domestic and foreign investors, in an effort to understand their concerns and priorities – deemed key for the development of Greece’s newly-established offshore wind sector. Last but not least, HEREMA recently inked a memorandum of cooperation with the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) focused on technical and environmental synergies.

Within the scope of new energy technologies, HEREMA’s expanded work scope additionally includes the licensing of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and underground gas storage (UGS) projects in Greece. Such projects could focus on the storage of natural gas and hydrogen in the future.  

Imminent key challenges 

While assessing key challenges moving forward, HEREMA’s Board of Directors underlined the importance of maintaining the momentum built during the last 12 months, while ensuring the company is provided with the necessary administrative and financial resources. Strengthening HEREMA’s capacity and resources is a primary challenge and will become even more critical as the company assumes its broader remit including natural gas storage, CO2 and greenhouse gas management, and supporting the offshore wind sector. It is noted that draft legislation for the modernization of HEREMA has been ready for adoption since January 2021 and will contribute to the creation of a more modern and efficient administrative framework.

More specifically, the board concludes “This is an important factor in maintaining investor confidence, but most importantly it serves to build an organisation with the staff, resources, and expertise required to manage a Greek “Hydrocarbons 2.0” programme that should only be initiated once the financial and human resources are in place to monitor and enforce the strictest standards for environmental protection and socio-economic impact management.” 

Emergency measures for supply security through 2023

The government is rushing to approve a series of emergency measures aiming to protect energy supply security through 2023 following Russia’s latest reduction of natural gas to Europe.

Last Friday, Russia halved its natural gas deliveries to Italy and Slovakia and cut off France after previously disrupting all natural gas flow to Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland.

An energy ministry draft bill carrying the emergency measures was submitted to parliament late last Friday night.

It includes articles for the installation of a floating storage unit at the LNG terminal on Revythoussa, the islet just off Athens; extended operation of power stations on Crete, until December 31, 2023; as well as mobilization of power stations on islands interconnected with the mainland as back-up facilities.

ELPE decision on Cretan offshore blocks within month or two

Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) will finalize decisions on hydrocarbon exploration at licenses held for two offshore Cretan blocks, west and southwest of the island, within the next month or two, chief executive Andreas Siamisiis has told an annual shareholders’ meeting.

There has been confusion as to what the future holds for these offshore Cretan blocks following the recent withdrawal from their related consortium by Total, which held a 40 percent stake, along with US oil and gas multinational ExxonMobil, ELPE holding the other 20 percent.

Siamisiis, responding to questions on Total’s withdrawal from the Cretan venture, noted that participants were currently involved in talks, adding that a development is expected within the next month or two, without elaborating further.

Just weeks ago, Aris Stefatos, managing director at EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, told state broadcaster ERT that Total’s withdrawal has prompted the need for another investor, suggesting a replacement is being sought for the Cretan offshore consortium.

Recent reports have indicated that ExxonMobil could also be on the way out from the consortium, which would further increase the need for a major investor.

Siamisiis, during the annual shareholders’ meeting, reiterated ELPE’s commitment for further seismic studies at both offshore Cretan blocks in an effort to determine their hydrocarbon prospects, even if ExxonMobil also withdraws from the consortium.

 

 

 

ExxonMobil, like Total, seems disinterested in Cretan blocks

American multinational oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil appears likely to follow the way of France’s TotalEnergies towards a possible withdrawal from two offshore blocks, west and southwest of Crete. The two companies each hold 40 percent stakes in these offshore licenses, Greece’s ELPE maintaining the other 20 percent.

Indications of a reduction in interest by the two corporations run contrary to  growing interest expressed by Greek officials for domestic exploration as a result of the EU’s decision to drastically reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas.

EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, recently forwarded letters to these upstream companies, informing them of the Greek government’s intentions for a renewed, more ambitious hydrocarbon strategy.

EDEY officials declined to comment on the retreats by ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies but noted that a new round of talks for upstream investments is beginning. Other corporations are interested in Greece’s upstream sector, EDEY officials informed.

EDEY is determined to keep a tight schedule and secure seismic surveys at the two Cretan offshore areas this coming autumn and in spring, 2023.

ELPE to seek Ionian Sea partner, Crete delayed by case

Hellenic Petroleum ELPE has successfully completed seismic surveys at offshore blocks in the Ionian Sea and the Gulf of Kyparissia, west of the Peloponnese, for which the company holds 100 percent exploration and exploitation rights, and once results have emerged, will seek to establish partnerships for these ventures, CEO Andreas Siamisiis noted yesterday.

The chief executive, who was speaking at ELPE’s official launch for a solar energy farm in Kozani, northern Greece, one of Europe’s biggest, informed that the group’s hydrocarbon exploration activities for potential natural gas deposits, part of the group portfolio, will focus on offshore areas and be accelerated.

The results of data collected through seismic surveys at the Ionian Sea and Gulf of Kyparissia blocks will now be studied, while 3D seismic data will also be collected, a procedure to require a further 12 months.

As for ELPE’s interests at Cretan offshore blocks, for which the company has formed a consortium with France’s Total and America’s ExxonMobil, surveys conducted have shown similarities with areas in the eastern Mediterranean, where major hydrocarbon discoveries have been made.

ELPE’s chief executive attributed delays affecting exploration work at the Cretan blocks to a legal case filed with the Council of State, Greece’s Supreme Administrative Court, targeting the venture’s environmental impact study. No serious company would continue exploring with such a legal case pending, Siamisiis noted.

 

 

New Supreme Court hearing delay for Crete offshore licenses

A court hearing concerning a legal case filed by environmental groups challenging an environmental impact assessment for prospective hydrocarbon exploration at two offshore licenses, west and southwest of Crete, by a consortium consisting of Total, ExxonMobil and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), has been suspended for a fourth time since 2019 by the Council of State, Greece’s Supreme Administrative Court, which has set a new date, October 5, 2022, according to sources.

The latest delay comes as a setback for the three-member consortium, which faces a first-stage exploration deadline preceding the new trial date.

Total, ExxonMobil and ELPE have planned seismic surveys at the two licenses, believed to offer natural gas production potential, but the trio cannot proceed with any exploration activity unless it overcomes this legal challenge.

Authorities tasked with assisting the government in legal action taken by environmental groups are seeking to move forward the new trial date, for a swifter conclusion.

The latest court delay highlights fears previously raised by upstream officials believing the country’s official policy on hydrocarbon deposit utilization remains ambiguous.

It remains to be seen how Total, ExxonMobil and ELPE will react to the hearing’s latest delay.

Crete’s hybrid model off to steady start, €100m extra cost for RES a/c

Crete’s electricity market has successfully participated in the target model since October 31, without interruption, when a hybrid model for the commercial operation of the island’s small-scale grid interconnection to the Peloponnese was launched.

Power grid operator IPTO has taken on management of Crete’s grid supply since the commercial launch of the small-scale grid interconnection with the Peloponnese, established ahead of a full-scale link to reach Athens.

According to the operator’s electricity distribution plan, daily loads totaling 1.89, 1.25 and 1.38 MWh have passed through the grid link, into Crete, since November 1, covering the island’s energy needs at proportions measuring 22.5, 15.7 and 17.8 percent, respectively.

The hybrid model’s launch for Crete is expected to add an annual cost of at least 100 million euros to the RES special account for remuneration of producers on Crete.

 

RAE forced to reset Cretan market target model entry for November 1

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has reset the target model entry of Crete’s electricity market for November 1, a month beyond a previous date set by energy ministry legislation, to enable full development of information systems to be used by operators and their associates, and also ensure that consumers are better informed on the transition, the authority’s president Thanasis Dagoumas has announced.

This change of date highlights the fact that time had run out for the settlement of pending issues ahead of the previous October 1 launch date for a Cretan hybrid model, intended to offer protection against extreme fluctuations in the balancing market.

As previously reported by energypress, RAE, last week, requested updates from the operators (power grid operator IPTO, distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, RES market operator DAPEEP) as well as the energy exchange, on their level of readiness, technically, for the Cretan electricity market’s target model entry on October 1.

It can be presumed that at least some of these agencies had not completed actions required in their respective domains for a launch tomorrow.

Crete market’s target model entry behind schedule

Delays observed in technical preparations by operators for the target model entry of Crete’s electricity market have resulted in pending issues that could prevent next month’s launch date from being achieved.

The energy ministry has prepared legislative revision stipulating a launch of a hybrid model for Crete on October 1.

In response to the delay, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, will request updates from the operators (power grid operator IPTO, distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, RES market operator DAPEEP) as well as the energy exchange, on their level of readiness, technically, for the Cretan electricity market’s target model entry at the beginning of next month.

RAE will reset the current launch date if it judges preparations to be at an unsatisfactory level. A one-month extension, for a November 1 launch, is possible.

 

 

ELPE to abandon its onshore block licenses in country’s west

Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) has decided to limit its presence in Greece’s upstream sector, driven by unfavorable market developments, sources have informed.

Spain’s Repsol recently also opted to surrender upstream rights in Greece.

ELPE intends to return to the Greek State its exploration and production licenses for two onshore blocks, Arta-Preveza and northwest Peloponnese, sources noted. The Greek petroleum company has deemed exploration activities in these specific areas as no longer being feasible, the sources added.

The company, in reaching its decision to withdraw from the Arta-Preveza and northwest Peloponnese blocks, also took into account negative reactions by local community groups as well as a series of bureaucratic obstacles, sources said.

The Greek State’s failure to deal with a lack of infrastructure at the port of Patras, close to these blocks in Greece’s west, is seen as a key factor in ELPE’s decision to withdraw from the Arta-Preveza and northwest Peloponnese blocks, despite promising seismic research results.

ELPE does not intend to surrender its interests in offshore blocks west and southwest of Crete. It is a co-member of consortiums with Total and ExxonMobil for these licenses.

The government is placing emphasis on renewable energy sources, foreign minister Nikos Dendias has just told Arab News.

 

PPC staging tender for generators as back-up on Crete this summer

Power utility PPC has just announced a tender for leasing contracts concerning power generators with a total capacity of 58 MW for Crete, to serve as back-up for grid sufficiency on the island during July and August, in anticipation of the tourism-related peak in electricity demand.

The generators, to be installed at PPC’s power station at Atherinolakkos, southeastern Crete, are intended to back an imminent subsea grid interconnection linking the island with the Peloponnese – the first step of a bigger interconnection project to reach Athens – which will have only been in operation for a few months when summer arrives.

The Crete-Peloponnese power grid interconnection is expected to be ready for launch in late April.

PPC’s plan for generators, budgeted at approximately 4 million euros, has been divided into two sections, one for 23 MW, the other for 35 MW. Participants can only submit offers for one of the tender’s two sections.

According to the tender’s terms, PPC will maintain the right to extend the lease contracts for all or some of the generators by a month, also covering September, if needed.

Distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO has estimated that Crete will need between 75 and 80 MW in additional capacity this summer. Besides the 58 MW to be provided by the generators through the tender, PPC will secure the required remainder through back-up solutions already possessed by the power utility.

If all goes according to plan, PPC’s rented generators, mobile units running on high-cost diesel, will not need to be used at all while stationed on the island, meaning the initiative’s total cost would be limited to the value of the lease agreements.

Total, ExxonMobil, ELPE delay Crete surveys for next winter

A decision by the three-member consortium comprising Total, ExxonMobil and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) to conduct seismic surveys at two offshore blocks south and west of Crete in the winter of 2021-2022, instead of this winter, highlights the upstream market’s negative climate, both in Greece and internationally.

Upstream players, drastically cutting down on investments costs amid the crisis, have cancelled scores of investment plans, especially those concerning the development of new fields.

Based on the terms of its contract, the Total-ExxonMobil-ELPE consortium also had the opportunity to conduct seismic surveys at its Cretan offshore blocks this winter.

It should be pointed out that the consortium has yet to receive environmental approval for these blocks. Nor have these slots been included in an annual workplan delivered by EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company.

Even so, Total, ExxonMobil and ELPE do not appear prepared, under the current conditions, to increase their investment risk in the region.

Crete network responsibility rift may delay new link’s utilization

Though Crete’s small-scale grid interconnection, to reach the Peloponnese, appears set for a late-March launch, as planned by the project’s developer, the power grid operator IPTO, a dispute with distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO over the point in time at which management responsibility of this link should be transferred from DEDDIE, currently responsible for Crete’s network as the island is classified as a non-interconnected island, to IPTO, threatens to delay the vital grid link’s full utilization.

Normally, when grid interconnection projects for non-interconnected islands are completed, IPTO assumes responsibility of their electricity networks.

However, Crete, Greece’s biggest and most populous island, represents a much bigger interconnection project that is being developed over two stages. The project’s second stage, anticipated in 2023, will reach Athens.

IPTO, in a letter forwarded to RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, and DEDDIE/HEDNO, contends it cannot assume management responsibility of networks that it does not own, such as Crete’s high-voltage network, which belongs to the power utility PPC group.

PPC will need to swiftly sell to IPTO the Cretan network, a 150-kV transmission line running from Hania to Lasithi, before the operator assumes its responsibility, the operator noted.

PPC does not appear quite ready to make such a move at present. As a result, IPTO insists DEDDIE/HEDNO needs to maintain responsibility for the Cretan grid from the moment the island’s small-scale interconnection is completed until ownership of the Cretan grid is transferred to IPTO.

On the contrary, DEDDIE/HEDNO, citing technical reasons as the main factor, believes IPTO should take on management responsibility of Crete’s grid as soon as it completes the small-scale link.

For the time being, RAE is consulting both sides in search of a solution. If PPC moves slowly on the transfer of ownership of the Cretan network to IPTO, then the new infrastructure’s full commercial utilization could be delayed.

Upstream projects awaiting Greek State reassurances

Local and foreign upstream companies holding exploration and production licenses for hydrocarbon reserves on Greek territory, offshore and onshore, are awaiting Greek State reassurances for their ventures following a cabinet reshuffle that has resulted in a change of leadership at the energy ministry, bringing in Kostas Skrekas in place of Costis Hatzidakis.

Oil companies, delaying investment plans as a result of the pandemic and lower oil prices, are waiting for a vote of confidence from the Greek State, market sources insist.

The fall in oil prices, currently at levels of about 50 dollar a barrel, may have halted upstream investments internationally, but, nevertheless, this is a good time for resolving bureaucratic obstacles and preparing local communities for prospective exploration efforts that promise to contribute to job creation and economic recovery.

Four upstream investment plans are currently either at an advanced stage in terms of prospective drilling or at preliminary exploration stages.

Of all four plans, Energean’s license for Katakolo, western Greece, is at the most mature stage. Public consultation on an environmental impact study concerning this project’s drilling requirements was completed in December, 2019. The regional authority for western Greece has offered its approval. Even so, a year later, the energy ministry has yet to deliver its decision on the environmental study.

A license for the Gulf of Patras field, held by Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) and Edison, is also at a mature stage. The partners requested, and were granted, an extension for the start of drilling at this field. EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, granted the pair a further 15 months, until January 23, 2023, to facilitate their preparations.

Sources have attributed this additional time to a lack of appropriate regional port facilities, needed to facilitate the installation of equipment required for drilling. ELPE and Edison had previously been given another extension, until October, 2021.

On another front, a partnership comprising Repsol and Energean has until April to start a second stage of exploration activities at its Ioannina block in northwestern Greece. Local community approval is needed. The government needs to take action on the issue.

A fourth upstream project carrying geopolitical weight concerns licenses held by a consortium made up of Total, ExxonMobil and ELPE for offshore fields west and southwest of Crete. Though company representatives recently informed Crete’s regional authorities that seismic surveys are planned to begin towards spring, there have been no further updates or any signs of action.

EuroAsia project moving again, Egypt present with EuroAfrica

Development of the wider region’s two major electricity grid interconnections, the EuroAsia Interconnector, to link Greece, from Crete, with Cyprus and Israel, and EuroAfrica Interconnector, a complementary project to link Cyprus with the African continent via Egypt, was discussed at a meeting in Nicosia yesterday between Greece’s energy minister Costis Hatzidakis and his Cypriot counterpart Natasa Pilides.

Progress at EuroAsia Interconnector, whose launch is scheduled for late in 2023, was held back by a Greek-Cypriot dispute prompted by Greek power grid operator IPTO’s withdrawal of the wider project’s Crete-Athens segment from EuroAsia Interconnector, a consortium of Cypriot interests.

The Crete-Athens segment is now being developed as a national project by IPTO and subsidiary Ariadne Interconnection.

EuroAsia Interconnector and EuroAfrica Interconnector promise to develop Cyprus into an electricity hub. A 310-km cable from Israel and a 498-km line from Egypt will converge at coastal Kofinou, in Cyprus’ south. From this hub, an 898-km cable is planned to link Cyprus with Crete before reaching Athens.

At yesterday’s meeting, the Greek and Cypriot energy ministers primarily focused on EuroAsia Interconnector, the Crete-Cyprus-Israel project, at a more mature stage.

Budgeted at 2.5 billion euros, this project, regarded as an EU Project of Common Interest, will promote regional energy security and further RES penetration in all three participating countries, Hatzidakis noted. The EU, it is estimated, will need to contribute at least half the project’s value.

Cyprus is the only EU member state without electricity grid interconnections.

Germany’s Siemens was awarded a procurement contract last May for EuroAsia Interconnector’s HVDC converter stations, budgeted at 623 million euros.

EuroAsia Interconnector was initially planned to offer 2 GW but this capacity has been halved, for the time being, as the other 1 GW will be used for the Crete-Athens grid interconnection.

EuroAsia Interconnector’s Israel-Cyprus segment is budgeted at 900 million euros while the cost of the bigger Cyprus-Crete section is estimated between 1.6 and 1.8 billion euros.

 

Crete-Peloponnese subsea cable installation to start soon

Power grid operator IPTO plans to begin installing a 135-km subsea cable for the Peloponnese-Crete grid interconnection, part of a larger project to ultimately extend this line to Athens, within the next few weeks. The installation’s exact starting date will depend on the weather conditions.

Also, a subsea cable interconnecting the islands Naxos and Syros, the final step in the third phase of the Cyclades grid interconnection, is expected to be electrified next month, according to the operator.

The Peloponnese-Crete project, in particular, is pivotal in the effort to reduce public service compensation (YKO) surcharges for consumers. The interconnections will also help utilize the renewable energy potential of islands.

The Peloponnese-Crete subsea cable installation, made challenging by deep waters reaching 1,000 meters, will require about two months to complete, IPTO sources noted. It will be the world’s longest subsea cable grid interconnection.

Installation work for a second subsea cable (107 km, 150 kV) between Syros and seaside Lavrio, on the southeastern tip of the wider Athens area, was completed last month in preparation for the electrification of the Naxos-Syros line, expected early October. High-voltage testing, over a 24-hour period, will precede the line’s electrification.

Ministry OKs environmental study for blocks south of Crete

Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis has approved a strategic environmental impact study concerning an offshore area south of Crete in preparation for tenders to offer exploration and production licenses for two blocks covering most of the island’s width.

Giannis Basias, the former head official at EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, went ahead with the strategic environmental impact study last August to clear the way for government authorities to stage tenders for licenses and also spare  winning bidders of needing to wait for pending issues to be resolved before they can begin their exploration efforts.

In addition, it is believed EDEY took swift action for the environmental impact study covering the offshore area south of Crete in response to interest expressed by oil majors.

The two offshore blocks south of Crete measure a total of 33,933 square kilometers and cover all four prefectures spread across the island.

These vacant blocks are situated next to two blocks southwest and west of Crete that have already been licensed out to a three-member consortium headed by Total with ExxonMobil and Hellenic Petroleum as partners.

The eastern flank of these two blocks is intruded by a corridor defined in a recent Turkish-Libyan maritime deal.

The Greek energy ministry’s approval of the strategic environmental impact study for south of Crete is not linked to Turkey’s heightened provocations in the Aegean Sea, ministry officials told energypress.

The environmental study’s approval means this offshore area is now set for tenders and also sends out a signal of readiness to the international upstream industry, the ministry officials explained.

Just days ago, the newly appointed EDEY administration and the energy ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou met with officials of Total, operator of the consortium holding the two licenses southwest and west of Crete. Seismic surveys for these blocks will be completed by March next year, the Total officials appear to have promised.

PPC using extra 58-MW unit on Crete for safety despite weak tourism data

Power utility PPC plans, next week, to begin operating 58-MW capacity generators leased and to be installed at a company power station even though electricity demand on the island is expected to be far lower than usual this summer.

The island will still need this generation boost to meet local energy requirements despite the pandemic’s anticipated negative impact on tourism, authorities have estimated.

Crete’s energy sufficiency situation will not be resolved until the island’s grid interconnection with Athens is completed.

The generators, to be installed at PPC’s power station at Atherinolakkos, southeastern Crete, are scheduled to begin operating on July 1.

PPC has received a production permit for the generators between July 1 and August 31. Depending on the conditions, this license could be stretched to also cover September.

Under normal circumstances, electricity demand on Crete typically reaches 700 MW during the summer as a result of major tourism development on the island. Power outages, both short and long-lasting, are a common summer occurrence on Crete.

 

RES auction for Crete wind, solar installations at end of year

A RES auction to offer respective 100-MW capacities for new wind and solar energy installations on Crete is still quite a long way off and will, at best, be staged towards the end of this year or early in 2021, energypress sources have informed.

Crete’s network for wind and solar energy facilities is currently saturated, according to technical standards provided in an older decision by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

However, studies conducted by the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and power grid operator IPTO both support that RES station output of between 180 and 200 MW can be safely absorbed by the Cretan network once the island’s grid is interconnected with that of the Peloponnese.

The island’s overall capacity boost is expected to reach between 2,000 and 2,500 MW once the major-scale grid interconnection, linking Crete with Athens, is completed.

A RAE proposal forwarded to the energy ministry has called for wind and solar energy auctions offering respective installation capacities of 100 MW, the aim being to cover investment demand and also boost power capacity on the island, still using diesel and pressed hard to resolve energy-sufficiency issues in the summers.

Oil drilling plans on hold, forced by price collapse, pandemic

Preliminary hydrocarbon exploration work planned by oil companies at licenses in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete is being postponed for an indefinite period that could last as much as a year, possibly more.

Upstream players are revising plans as a result of the collapse in oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, a double setback for the sector.

Worse still, investment conditions for the Ionian Sea and Crete areas are made even more challenging by the fact that neither has yet to reveal sustainable fields.

In addition, both Greek zones are deep-sea areas of depths ranging from 2,500 to 3,000 meters, making exploration a high-cost venture.

Global oil majors are reducing investments and expenses by the billions in response to the unfavorable market conditions that have emerged over the past couple of months.

Fields with proven reserves have not been spared, which pushes untested fields such as those in Greece even further down the priority list.

The resumption of drilling ventures still at preliminary stages is not likely until oil prices rebound, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis noted in an interview with Greek daily To Ethnos.

It is a similar picture for Cyprus. The Eni-Total consortium yesterday announced it is postponing oil drilling activities in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone until March or April next year.

DESFA 10-year plan approved, virtual pipelines not included

Gas grid operator DESFA’s ten-year development plan has been approved by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, following a lengthy procedure, including consultation, that lasted several months.

A virtual pipeline proposal envisioning LNG supply to Crete, the north Aegean islands and the Dodecanese via tankers from the operator’s Revythoussa terminal just off Athens was left out of the approved plan. This is the ten-year plan’s only notable change compared to the draft forwarded for consultation.

LNG virtual pipelines serve as a substitute for conventional gas pipelines to enable the transport of LNG to points of use by sea, road or a combination of these.

The virtual pipeline proposal was removed from the DESFA ten-year plan following concerns expressed by consultation participants over higher surcharge costs for consumers that could have been imposed as part of the project’s cost recovery procedure.

The gas grid operator’s ten-year plan includes, for the first time, a natural gas outlet along the TAP route for the west Macedonia region in Greece’s north.

This TAP outlet, a project budgeted at 3 million euros and expected to be launched late in 2022, is intended to supply natural gas to the area’s provincial cities of Kozani, Ptolemaida, Florina and Amynteo for use at telethermal facilities as well as other energy needs in the post-lignite era.

The area’s telethermal system currently relies on energy produced by power utility PPC’s lignite-fired power stations, soon set for withdrawal as part of the country’s decarbonization effort.

 

Officials forced to reexamine Crete’s energy sufficiency plan for summer

Power utility PPC and RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, are currently reexamining data concerning Crete’s energy demands for this coming summer as the coronavirus pandemic is expected to severely impact tourism activity.

In response to the closure of old, high-polluting power stations on Crete, energy authorities have been planning a number of energy units to meet higher tourism-related electricity demand in the summer.

However, a revision to the plan will now probably be needed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic’s negative impact forecast for the tourism sector.

Prior to the pandemic’s outbreak, RAE, basing its calculations on data provided by distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, had concluded Cretan electricity generation needed to be bolstered by a level of between 80 and 85 MW.

PPC has already completed a tender for a 58-MW facility. RAE has also requested PPC to stage a second tender for a further 25 MW. But revisions may now be necessary.

The additional units on Crete are intended to help cover the island’s energy needs until a grid interconnection with the mainland, all the way to Athens, is completed. The grid interconnection project’s completion is scheduled for 2023.

RAE renews call for ministry’s help on Crete sufficiency plan

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has reiterated a request for energy ministry support needed for the execution of a plan that is expected to resolve energy sufficiency concerns on Crete until the island’s major-scale interconnection with Athens is completed.

The authority, which has resent a package of Crete-sufficiency proposals to the energy ministry, is essentially seeking permission from the ministry to recruit consultants so that it can proceed with necessary tenders.

The RAE plan, comprised of four basic actions, is based on a related study conducted by the National Technical University of Athens. Besides ensuring energy sufficiency for the island, the proposals also meet environmental standards.

The conversion of a diesel-fueled power station into a 100-MW natural gas-fueled facility is one of the four RAE proposals.

Another entails the installation of a new 100-MW power station, preferably natural gas-fueled.

A third action involves a RES capacity addition of roughly 200 MW, evenly split between wind and solar facilities.

RAE’s fourth proposal concerns the installation – and introduction to the Greek grid – of energy storage systems, or high-tech batteries, representing a capacity of between 30 and 40 MW.

The first and second proposals depend on LNG supply to Crete. Subsequently, a tender will need to be staged for the installation of an FSRU as well as a 100-MW power station.

The additional RES capacity will also require tenders. In addition, RAE proposes a tender for the energy storage systems it envisions for the island.

These batteries could also be used on other Greek islands in the future if they are eventually no longer needed on Crete.