New effort for East Med agreement at Athens energy summit

Greek gas utility DEPA and Italian energy giant Edison, collaborating on a plan to develop the East Med pipeline, envisioned to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli natural gas systems, are looking to take a crucial technical step ahead of construction.

Their YAFA Poseidon joint venture – spearheading the ambitious project, a 1,900-km pipeline stretch with an investment cost of between 6 and 7 billion euros – is gearing up for the launch of FEED (Front-End Engineering Design), environmental and detailed underwater research studies.

The European Commission has approved 34.5 million euros from the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), a funding instrument, for these studies. The CEF amount will cover half the cost of the aforementioned preliminary studies, which will push the plan ahead to a mature stage.

The pipeline project is planned to carry southeast Mediterranean natural gas, primarily deposits from Cyprus’ recently discovered “Aphrodite” gas field and the Israeli-controlled block “Leviathan”, along a route stretching from Israel to Europe.

An agreement between Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Italy, where the pipeline is planned to conclude, is still needed.

East Med plans have been at a standstill ever since the current Italian government announced it was stalling the project.

According to sources, the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli energy ministers will seek to restart procedures and also send out a message of encouragement to the Italian government when they meet at an Athens energy summit tomorrow. US Assistant Secretary Francis Fannon will also participate.

East Med, still at a theoretical stage, promises geostrategic might for Greece, Cyprus and Israel, as well as the USA, on southeast Mediterranean energy matters, especially against Turkey’s opposition to hydrocarbon exploration within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The pipeline plan also promises to break Russia’s dominance of gas supply to the EU.



Total seeking buyer for its 50% stake in Block 2, west of Corfu

French oil and gas multinational Total appears to be preparing to sell its 50 percent stake in an offshore license west of Corfu, Block 2, preferring instead to focus on other hydrocarbon interests in Greece, west and southwest of Crete.

Total, the operator of Corfu’s Block 2 license, established a consortium for this venture with Edison and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), each holding 25 percent stakes.

This license was signed in October, 2017 following the launch of a tender in 2014 that offered a total of 20 offshore blocks in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete.

Total is in partnership with US major ExxonMobil and ELPE for its licenses west and southwest of Crete.

Recent activity in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – an area in which Total has joined forces with Italy’s Eni to take on Block 7 – as well as developments in the wider eastern Mediterranean, has turned the French oil and gas giant’s attention to this region, sources told energypress.

Further changes are expected in the Greek market. ELPE is believed to be seeking partners for exploration and production licenses it has acquired alone.


Greek-Cypriot-Israeli energy summit highlights US interest

Washington’s supportive interest in the energy partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel has grown, driven by the prospect of hydrocarbon exploration in the southeast Mediterranean region as well as the East Med natural gas pipeline, planned to carry Cypriot, Israeli and, possibly, Egyptian natural gas to the EU via Greece and Italy.

Highlighting this interest, an upcoming Athens energy summit, scheduled to take place on August 6 and 7, comes as a US initiative, energypress sources informed.

It will follow a meeting just days ago, at the East Med Gas Forum in Egypt, that brought together Greek energy minister Costis Hatzidakis with his Cypriot and Israeli peers, Giorgos Lakkotrypis and Yuval Steinitz, respectively. In addition, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis recently met with Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades.

US Assistant Secretary Francis Fannon, head of the Bureau of Energy Sources, will also take part in the Athens energy summit. Fannon is scheduled to meet with Hatzidakis, Greece’s energy minister, and the country’s deputy foreign minister Konstantinos Fragogiannis on the eve of the event.

The summit highlights the US-fostered partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel, united against escalating Turkish tension concerning offshore hydrocarbon exploration plans within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The event’s participants are also expected to discuss the East Med pipeline. An agreement between the three countries and Italy remains pending. Last spring, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte claimed he sees no benefits for Italy in the project, effectively bringing the country’s effort in the matter to a standstill.

Washington openly supports this natural gas pipeline as it promises to establish an alternative supply route to Europe that would restrict Moscow’s energy dominance on the continent, through Gazprom.

Sideline efforts are being made to alter Italy’s negative stance, sources informed. A message could be projected to Rome through the imminent Athens event.

Crete grid link urgent, minister stresses at Cyprus meeting

Euroasia Interconnector, a consortium of Cypriot interests heading a PCI-status grid interconnection to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli systems, is prepared to collaborate with Greek authorities for the development of the project’s Greek segment, to connect Crete with Athens, as long as Greece accepts a related road map set by the European Commission last October, sources have informed.

Essentially, this can be interpreted as a Cypriot demand for Greece to accept the project’s technical specifications that were rejected by Greek power grid operator IPTO and the previous Syriza government.

Last year’s road map includes all the technical, financial and interconnection details concerning the project’s three segments, linking Athens with Crete, Crete with Cyprus and Cyprus with Israel. Absolute compatibility is essential.

Greek energy minister Costis Hatzidakis, who met yesterday with Euroasia Interconnector’s top officials, emphasized the importance being placed by the newly elected conservative New Democracy government on the project’s swift development.

Fast progress will serve as the main criterion when determining action to be taken, Hatzidakis stressed at the meeting, in Nicosia, adding that, if possible, the support of EU funds would be a bonus. PCI projects are entitled to EU support funds.

IPTO and Euroasia Interconnector have been at odds for control over the development of the project’s Crete-Athens segment. It is needed urgently to prevent a looming energy shortage on Crete as of next year, when old units still operating on the island will need to be withdrawn to align the country with EU environmental policies.

Continuation of energy strategy minister’s guide at Cairo forum

Recently appointed energy minister Costis Hatzidakis will formally commence work on promoting Greece’s international energy relations at his first meetings abroad, today and tomorrow, at the East Med Gas Forum in Cairo.

The minister, in recent speeches, has already made clear his interest in supporting a national strategy shaped to bolster the country’s energy security, elevate its geopolitical role and fuel economic growth.

Strategic partnerships with Cyprus, the USA, Israel and Egypt will play a pivotal role in this effort.

Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority will all be represented at the Cairo forum.

Hatzidakis, Greece’s energy minister, is also expected to discuss energy partnerships and regional security with US energy secretary Rick Perry, who is in the Egyptian capital as part of a tour of the east Mediterranean.

Development of the submarine East Med gas pipeline, a project promising security and stability for the wider region, is a leading priority  for Greece.

On a wider level, the minister can be expected to carry on supporting a national strategy pursued over the past decade to establish Greece as a pivotal energy player in the region and key problem solver of regional energy partnership issues.

As for other major energy infrastructure projects, the new Greek government will continue to provide national support for the swift completion of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), planned to transport Caspian natural gas to Europe, and the Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas grid interconnector. Other investment plans such as the Alexandroupoli FSRU and the Kavala underground gas storage facility will also keep receiving the support of Greece’s administration.

New EU warning for Turkey over Cyprus EEZ violations

The EU’s 28 are set to issue a new warning to Turkey today in response to the country’s illegal hydrocarbon exploration activities within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), diplomatic sources have informed.

EU governments are expected to vow to freeze negotiations over the modernization of the customs union between the bloc and Turkey, while reiterating that accession negotiations have come to a standstill.

The EU-28 will also signal that further escalation is possible, as the EU “stands ready to respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus,” if drilling activity continues.

The statement, due to be approved by the EU’s European affairs ministers today, is subject to ongoing deliberations between diplomats and the final wording may change.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Sunday that he may demand EU sanctions against Turkey over drilling activities.

Ankara is disputing Nicosia’s EEZ rights as Cyprus prepares to drill at offshore gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey has sent exploration vessels in the area, with Cyprus protesting a violation of its sovereignty.

Greek PCI support for Eurosia conditional, minister suggests

Greece’s decision to proceed with the development of the Crete-Athens electricity grid interconnection as a national project through power grid operator IPTO’s special purpose vehicle Ariadne rather than as part of a wider Euroasia Interconnector project planned to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli grids has cast doubts over the future PCI status of Euroasia’s Crete-Cyprus and Cyprus-Israel segments.

Euroasia Interconnector, a consortium of Cypriot interests heading the wider project, will need the support of all parties involved if the Crete-Cyprus and Cyprus-Israel segments are to secure a place in the EU’s new PCI list, enabling favorable funding, when the updated list is published later this year, in autumn.

Though Greece’s energy ministry has yet to make its intentions clear, it faces pressure, especially from Cyprus, to support the continued PCI-status of the Crete-Cyprus and Cyprus-Israel segments as their development would end Cyprus’ electricity grid isolation.

Greece’s stance will most likely depend on Euroasia Interconnector’s moves and whether it will seek to obstruct the development of the Crete-Athens interconnection through legal procedures and other action.

Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis has suggested Greece’s support for the wider project’s PCI status would be conditional.

IPTO recently decided to remove the Crete-Athens segment from the wider Greece-Cyprus-Israel interconnection project as the operator was embroiled in a dispute with the Cypriot consortium over the local segment’s control.

EDEY to drum up Greek oil, gas hopes at Italy, Romania events

Spurred by recent significant gas field discoveries at Cypriot and Egyptian offshore blocks and the favorable prospects these have generated for the wider region, top officials at EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, will be looking to attract major foreign investors to new Greek blocks at two industry events in Italy and Romania.

EDEY chairman Yiannis Basias, who is in Ravenna, Italy today to attend the Offshore Mediterranean Conference & Exhibition, a leading industry event, will be exploring the potential interest of oil majors, including Italy’s ENI, for new offshore blocks in the Ionian Sea and off Crete to soon be licensed out.

EDEY chief’s deputy Spyros Bellas will follow up this effort in Bucharest at the Balkans & Black Sea Cooperation Forum, scheduled to take place April 4 and 5.

Tristan Aspray, ExxonMobil’s Vice President of Exploration for Europe, Russia, and the Caspian, hailed the wider region’s prospects at the recent Delphi Economic Forum in Greece. ExxonMobil is currently involved in exploration work being carried out in Romania.

Speaking earlier this month at London’s Global APPEX (Prospect & Property Expo), an event organized by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), Bellas, EDEY’s deputy, presented a road map of Greece’s hydrocarbon plans for 2019 to officials of foreign companies as well as latest and more detailed geological data on the Ionian Sea and Cretan regions. This data was processed by Norway’s PGS.

The strategy adopted at EDEY is to plan tenders for offshore blocks based on the interest expressed by foreign investors at this series of meetings.

Besides ENI and ExxonMobil, EDEY is seeking to convince Repsol, Shell and other US majors of Greece’s hydrocarbon prospects.



Three-way summit to support ambitious East Med project

The leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel are expected to unite for a joint statement in support of the East Med natural gas pipeline’s development as well as the reinforcement of regional energy security at a summit in Jerusalem this Wednesday, where they will be joined by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The anticipated declaration by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his respective Cypriot and Israeli counterparts, Nicos Anastasiades and Benjamin Netanhyahu, will represent yet another step towards the development of East Med, promising a transportation route for regional natural gas to  EU markets.

Pompeo’s presence at the forthcoming three-way summit, combined with ExxonMobil’s recently declared intention to take part in a new round of Israeli tenders offering licenses, make clear Washington’s determination for a leading role in the Mediterranean.

Discoveries of major natural gas fields in the region and plans for EU-bound transportation routes have increased US interest.

However, many obstacles still lie ahead for the East Med pipeline. These include Italy’s step back as a result of objections expressed by Italy’s Five Star Movement, a member of the country’s far-right coalition. Italy’s environmental ministry has ordered a new environmental impact study for Italy’s Otranto seaside location, where East Med is planned to reach.

Greece, Cyprus and Israel now appear to be examining alternative East Med routes towards Europe, the most favorable option being North Macedonia.

Though Egypt expressed support for East Med last week, Cairo plans to utilize the country’s LNG terminals with the aim of exporting gas in liquefied form. This infrastructure would have an advantage over East Med.

East Med’s commercial feasibility is another concern. Quantities and customers still need to be assured.



East Med pipeline prospects bolstered by Egyptian support

Egypt’s constructive participation in talks for the development of the East Med natural gas pipeline, planned to carry Cypriot, Israeli and, possibly, Egyptian natural gas to the EU via Greece and Italy, has created favorable prospects for the realization of a project promising to play a pivotal role on the southeast Mediterranean energy map.

US support for the project and an effort by participating countries to ensure ExxonMobil’s involvement are also bolstering the East Med’s development prospects.

Last month, Egypt’s petroleum minister Tarek El-Molla had told Cyprus News Agency his country is not interested in participating in the East Med project with its Zohr natural gas deposit.

However, the Egyptian minister changed his tune yesterday at Ceraweek 2019, an international energy in Houston, Texas, noting Egypt will support the East Med project.

Quite clearly, Egypt is looking to establish yet another alternative supply route for its Zohr field, an enormous natural gas discovery, to major consumer markets of the west.

Prior to expressing support for East Med, El-Molla took part in a meeting with his Greek, Israeli and Cypriot counterparts – Giorgos Stathakis, Yuval Steinitz and Giorgos Lakkotrypis, respectively – and US energy under secretary Mark Menezes, at the Houston event.

All four officials confirmed their support for the East Med gas pipeline, according to a statement released by Greece’s energy ministry.

Stathakis, Greece’s energy minister, also held a separate meeting yesterday with ExxonMobil officials for talks on developments concerning the oil major’s hydrocarbon exploration interests at offshore blocks west and southwest of Crete – through a consortium established with Total and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) – and the East Med project, energypress sources informed.


Greek-Cypriot-Israeli deal for East Med pipeline likely this month

A three-way agreement between Greece, Cyprus and Israel for the development of the East Med natural gas pipeline, planned to carry Cypriot and Israeli natural gas to the EU via Greece and Italy, appears increasingly likely to be signed by the leaders of the three countries at a Tel Aviv summit scheduled for March 20.

A draft of the planned agreement is currently being fine-tuned in Brussels.

Despite the emergence of a growing number of reports contending an agreement is near, objections expressed by Italy’s Five Star Movement, a member of the country’s far-right coalition, could turn into a problem for the East Med pipeline plan.

Italy’s environmental ministry has ordered a new environmental impact study for Italy’s Otranto seaside location, where East Med is planned to reach. Incidentally, the TAP project to carry gas from Azerbaijan to the EU is also planned to reach this spot. The Five Star Movement has also raised environmental concerns over this project.

Lebanon is another country in the region opposing East Med as a result of its ongoing EEZ dispute with Israel. Turkey, not on good terms with Israel and unsettled by the evolving Israeli-Cypriot cooperation, also opposes the project. Cyprus is continuing its hydrocarbon exploration activities, adding to Turkey’s concerns.

Meanwhile, Greek energy minister Giorgos Stathakis arrived in Houston, Texas yesterday to take part in Ceraweek 2019, an international energy conference running until Friday.

Stathakis is scheduled to take part in a panel discussion tomorrow on east Mediterranean developments following recent natural gas discoveries by Cyprus and Israel. His Cypriot, Israeli and Egyptian counterparts will also join this panel.

Sideline talks, by these officials, on regional energy matters are expected.

Investors frustrated by license delays for Crete exploration

Contrary to Cyprus, providing oil majors investor-friendly conditions for their hydrocarbon exploration activities, ExxonMobil’s recent Glaucus-1 gas discovery emerging as a shining example, conditions in Greece are undermining the efforts of investors.

A consortium comprising Total, Exxon Mobil and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), established for hydrocarbon exploration work off Crete, has been held back by Greek government delays over the past few months.

Though most of the preliminary work has been completed, the trio of investors is still waiting for the Greek government to issue an exploration license, which would enable it to commence work at blocks off Crete.

An environmental impact study provided by the consortium for blocks west and southwest of Crete is said to have inexplicably fallen into stagnancy at one of the offices of the energy ministry’s environmental division over the past couple of months. It needs to be approved as part of the license issuing procedure.

Not surprisingly, investors are apparently making comparisons between sector operating conditions in Greece and Cyprus.

Exxon Mobil, Total and ELPE officials have all forwarded questions to energy minister Giorgos Stathakis’ office over the delay and been told not to worry.

“We’re excited but still waiting for the Greek government’s final approvals,” Tristan Aspray, Vice President of Exploration for Europe, Russia, and the Caspian, somewhat frustrated, recently remarked.


Three-way East Med gas pipeline deal reached, US keen

The leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel have reached an agreement to develop the East Med natural gas pipeline, planned to carry enormous southeast Mediterranean natural gas deposits to the EU via Greece. They met today at the Israeli city Beersheba for a fifth summit on the issue.

The project’s development plan still needs to be endorsed by the European Commission before a final agreement is signed by the three countries. This is expected in the the first quarter of 2019.

The European Commission has already received the project’s details and is expected to offer its approval early in 2019.

Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, joined by energy minister Giorgos Stathakis for the Israel trip, and the respective leaders of Cyprus and Israel, Nicos Anastasiades and Benjamin Netanyahu, are scheduled to sign related memorandums later in the day.

In the lead-up to today’s session, diplomats had described the meeting as one of the last pre-construction steps for the East Med project.

A disputed electricity grid interconnection project involving the three countries has not been included on today’s agenda. Greek authorities awarded Ariadne Interconnector, an SPV established by Greek power grid operator IPTO, control of the Greek-Cypriot-Israeli project’s Crete-Athens segment, despite European Commission objections.

Brussels favors Euroasia Interconnector, a consortium of Cypriot interests heading the wider Greek-Cypriot-Israeli project, for control of its Crete-Athens segment.

The East Med natural gas pipeline, whose cost has been estimated at 7 billion dollars, promises to be the world’s biggest submarine pipeline – in terms of length and depth.

The US has showed increased support for the project in recent times. US involvement in the project has not been excluded.

An annual gas transmission objective of 20 bcm has been set for East Med. EU natural gas needs have been forecast to reach 100 bcm in 2030.

RAE to reiterate Crete project link commitments to all parties involved

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, intends to reiterate and seek reconfirmation of commitments taken on by all parties involved in the delayed Crete-Athens grid interconnection’s development via a letter to be forwarded to all, sources have informed. The move is seen as a counterattack following criticism by Brussels officials.

Besides Euroasia Interconnector – a consortium of Cypriot interests heading a wider PCI-status project planned to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids – Greece’s power grid operator IPTO and its Cypriot counterpart, RAE will also forward copies of the letter to the European Commission and Greece’s energy ministry, for their information.

A dispute between IPTO and Euroasia Interconnector for control over the wider project’s Greek segment has prompted delays.

According to sources, Euroasia Interconnector and the Cypriot power grid operator, in a letter to RAE, recently named their representatives for a committee being assembled to work on ensuring the technical compatibility of the Greek section with the overall grid interconnection project’s Crete-Cyprus and Cyprus-Israel segments. RAE intends to soon name the committee’s Greek representatives, sources informed.

RAE, in its letter, will also highlight the need for the local interconnection project’s swift progress so as to prevent an energy shortage threat on Crete as of 2020 due to EU-required closures of outdated diesel-fired power stations still operating on the island.

Euroasia Interconnector has been granted a deadline extension until the end of the year to present capital needed for its participation in Ariadne, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) established by IPTO for the project’s Greek segment, RAE is expected to remind in its letter.

RAE’s overall handling of the matter does not contravene EU regulations or threaten the project’s PCI status, the authority contends.


ExxonMobil drillship nearing for Cyprus venture amid heightened tension

US energy giant ExxonMobil, in a collaborative effort with Qatar Petroleum, is preparing to launch exploratory drills at Block 10 in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) amid heightened military activity in the region.

Hydrocarbon experts have increased the likelihood of Block 10, southwest of Cyprus, carrying significant reserves.

An ExxonMobil drillship, Stena Icemax, capable of drilling in water depth up to 3,000 meters, embarked on its cross-Atlantic journey on October 29 and is reportedly scheduled to arrive at Limassol port on November 12, where personnel for the drilling venture will board the vessel before it heads out to Block 10 to commence work.

A Navtex international automated warning system, whose applications include global maritime distress safety, has been programmed by Cyprus to monitor parts of the island nation’s EEZ areas concerning the upcoming drills.

Turkey has heightened its mobilization in the wider region, suggesting it will bargain hard to promote its hydrocarbon interests in the wider Middle East region.

Less than a fortnight ago, Turkish naval forces accompanied the neighboring country’s Barbaros survey vessel within Cypriot EEZ territory and, in addition, have also joined the Turkish drillship Porthitis (Fatih) for deep-sea drilling operations north of Cyprus, reported to have begun.

The upcoming exploration work and possible hydrocarbon production in the Cypriot EEZ could change the Cypriot balance. The Turkish occupation of the island’s north has prevented Cyprus from utilizing its natural wealth since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.

Greece proposes corresponding Cypriot SPV for needed grid link

Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis, responding to a Cypriot appeal for Greece to not stand as an obstacle in the island nation’s effort to end its energy isolation, has proposed that Cyprus establish an SPV of its own for swifter development of the Crete-Cyprus segment of a wider interconnection plan aiming to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli grids.

Despite European Commission objections, RAE, Greece’s Regulatory Authority for Energy, has remained adamant about its decision to place an SPV named Ariadne, a Greek power grid operator IPTO subsidiary, at the helm of the Crete-Athens segment’s development.

IPTO and Euroasia Interconnector, a consortium of Cypriot interests heading the wider Greek, Cypriot and Israeli PCI-status interconnection plan, have fought for control over the Crete-Athens segment, creating a Greek-Cypriot dispute.

Cyprus fears the Greek-Cypriot-Israeli interconnection plan could be brought to the ground by the dispute, which would end the island nation’s aspirations for an electricity market interconnection with Greece and, by extension, other European energy markets.

Stathakis, Greece’s energy minister, contends the Greek SPV does not breach any regulations or agreements as all parties involved have already agreed on IPTO holding a stake of at least 51 percent in the company to develop the Athens-Crete link.

He supports that a corresponding Cypriot SPV controlling the Crete-Cyprus segment would lead to swifter progress for both the Crete-Cyprus and Crete-Athens segments of the wider project and end the island nation’s energy isolation.



Athens-Crete grid link issues a ‘concern’ for Cypriot interconnection

Cypriot energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis has urged his Greek counterpart Giorgos Stathakis to support action that would ensure Greece’s energy-related support for Cyprus and prevent the island nation’s isolation in this sector.

Lakkotrypis, who expressed his appeal in a letter forwarded to the Greek energy minister following meetings and telephone discussions, is pushing for a solution that would resolve a dispute between Greek power grid operator IPTO and Euroasia Interconnector, a consortium of Cypriot interests heading a PCI-status project planned to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids via Crete. The two sides have fought for control of the wider project’s Crete-Athens segment.

The wider project’s development is crucial for EU plans aiming to interconnect the Greek and Cypriot electricity markets and, by extension, the Cypriot and European markets.


IPTO OKs technical committee for Crete link, wants swift action

Power grid operator IPTO will accept the establishment of a technical committee for a supervisory role concerning compatibility between the Crete-Athens grid interconnection and a wider PCI-status project planned to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids via Crete, but wants this committee to have delivered its final decisions by November 30 for avoidance of further delays to the Crete-Athens segment.

The Crete-Athens interconnection, ready for development in terms of technology and financing, according to IPTO, is crucial to ensure power sufficiency on Crete as of 2020.

IPTO is expected to present a full plan at a meeting in Brussels today to focus on compatibility issues concerning the Crete-Athens segment and the wider Greece-Cyprus-Israel grid interconnection.

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, recently named the SPV “Ariadne Interconnection”, an IPTO subsidiary, the Crete-Athens link’s project promoter. Euroasia Interconnector, a consortium of Cypriot interests, heads the wider Greece-Cyprus-Israel interconnection project. IPTO and Euroasia have fought for control of the Crete-Athens link segment.

The Greek and Cypriot regulatory authorities for energy, Greek and Cypriot government officials, as well as representatives of IPTO, Euroasia Interconnector, ACER, Europe’s Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, and Belgian operator Elia, are all expected to take part at today’s meeting.

PCI talks for Crete-Athens link rivals at meeting next week

The European Commission’s division for Projects of Common Interest has summoned officials representing all parties involved in a dispute for control of an Crete-Athens electricity grid interconnection plan to a Brussels meeting next week to examine whether this project can retain its PCI status and, if so, under what conditions.

The Crete-Athens link is part of the wider Euroasia Interconnector, a PCI-status project planned to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids via Crete.

Greek power grid operator IPTO and Cyprus’s Euroasia Interconnector consortium have been locked in a dispute for control of the wider project’s Crete-Athens link.

The Greek and Cypriot energy ministries and regulatory authorities for energy, as well as Belgian electricity transmission system operator Elia, given an intermediary role by Brussels for the dispute, have been invited to next week’s meeting.

Brussels called next week’s meeting in response to a recent decision by RAE, Greece’s Regulatory Authority for Energy, handing IPTO the task of establishing a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for the development of Crete’s urgently needed interconnection with Athens as a venture in which the operator will hold a 51 percent stake and other shareholders – the Euroasia Interconnector consortium has priority rights – will be offered 39 percent with an option for a further 10 percent.

The RAE initiative does not contravene the terms of a MoU signed by IPTO and the Euroasia Interconnector consortium and provides the consortium with an opportunity to participate in the Crete-Athens interconnection project, Greek energy ministry officials have supported in comments offered to energypress.

Crete faces a looming energy sufficiency threat as of 2020 because an exemption to EU law concerning power station emission limits for local high-polluting units, such as those operating on Crete, ends in December, 2019. A number of power stations on the island will need to be withdrawn.

ACER complaint on Crete-Athens link backs Brussels, project in limbo

Just days after objections were raised by the European Commission, ACER, Europe’s Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, has also expressed its disapproval of a decision by RAE, Greece’s Regulatory Authority for Energy, giving power grid operator IPTO permission to establish a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for financing and development control of Crete’s urgently needed major-scale electricity grid interconnection with Athens.

ACER, which made clear its discontent – and astonishment – in a letter forwarded to RAE, described the authority’s initiative as a “unilateral move”, energypress sources informed. RAE has yet to respond.

The Crete-Athens interconnection project’s future now appears to be in limbo as this second intervention by a European institution adds further weight to the European Commission’s insinuation that the link would cease to enjoy PCI status and subsequent EU backing if the RAE decision is upheld.

Brussels reacted to the RAE move by noting the authority cannot award Crete’s major-scale interconnection with Athens to any party until the end of the year, the time period given to Euroasia Interconnector – a consortium of Cypriot interests responsible for a wider project planned to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids – to decide if it will utilize a right offered for a 39 percent stake, or less, in the venture to develop the Crete-Athens link.

Compatibility concerns have already been raised about four transformers to be installed in the wider Athens area, Crete, Cyprus and Israel for the Euroasia Interconnector.

Also, Cypriot officials, in comments to energypress, cited the emergence of a national issue as Cyprus now finds itself detached from the EU – regarding the project – as a result of the RAE move at a time when the island’s Turkish-occupied northeast is seeking a power grid interconnection with Turkey.




US drillship in Cyprus may reignite Greek-Turkish tension

US energy giant ExxonMobil plans to conduct its first offshore drilling venture at block 12 in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) within the next few weeks as part of its hydrocarbon exploration effort in the region, sparking fears of renewed Greek-Turkish tension. An ExxonMobil survey vessel is scheduled to arrive at the block on September 28.

Though Greek-Turkish tension has deescalated in recent times, the exploratory work planned by ExxonMobil, as well as France’s Total, in Cypriot waters, could spark new tension between the neighbors, pundits believe.

Regardless of the ongoing developments concerning Turkey’s economic crisis, the upcoming exploration work and possible hydrocarbon production in the Cypriot EEZ could change the Cypriot balance, which has prevented Cyprus from utilizing its natural wealth since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. Turkey will most likely be prepared to use force to prevent Cyprus from utilizing this anticipated wealth.

Turkey has already sent a drillship and four support vessels to the Mediterranean to start the country’s first deep-sea drilling operations. There are concerns that tensions in the region could flare up if the Turkish vessel, Porthitis (Fatih), begins drilling off the coast of Cyprus, where Nicosia has already granted exploration licenses to foreign companies.

Turkey says it will prevent Cyprus from searching for gas and oil off its coast if Turkish Cypriots are not included in the process.

Tensions between Greece and Turkey reached breaking point in February after Turkish warships prevented a rig of Italian energy giant ENI from drilling in block 3 of Cyprus’s EEZ.

US officials have asked Ankara to keep away from ten areas and also urged for a Turkish commitment ensuring smooth proceedings in the exploratory work planned within the Cypriot EEZ.

“Naturally, in diplomacy, you name 10 areas so that the other side may back away from some of these,” one pundit told energypress.

Any normalization of Greek-Turkish relations will be temporary and restricted to this week’s repatriation of two Greek soldiers who were released from a Turkish prison following months of captivity, pundits have stressed. The normalization is not a long-term condition, they noted, citing the upcoming hydrocarbon exploration plans in Cyprus’s EEZ.




Slow Athens-Crete link action raising island’s energy fears

Crete’s major-scale electricity grid interconnection with Athens is a PCI-status project as it represents a part of the wider Euroasia Interconnector to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids, meaning EU terms and conditions will need to be observed for the Crete-Athens link, the European Commission informed participants at a related meeting in Brussels earlier this week.

Greek and Cypriot regulatory authorities for energy, the European Commission, and the Euroasia Interconnector consortium, responsible for the wider Euroasia Interconnector project, took part in the meeting.

Officials of Greece’s power grid operator IPTO, which is at odds with the Euroasia Interconnector consortium for control of the Athens-Crete link’s development, skipped the meeting claiming there was no chance of any agreement on the issue with Euroasia Interconnector, a consortium of Cypriot interests.

The Athens-Crete interconnection has fallen behind schedule. Slow-moving bureaucratic procedures in Brussels have intensified Greek concerns of a serious power sufficiency problem on Crete as of 2020. An exemption to EU law concerning power station emission limits for local high-polluting units, such as those operating on Crete, is set to expire in December, 2019.

The Athens-Crete link’s PCI status promises to offer the project fast-track licensing advantages, reduce the risk of legal challenges by rival companies, and ensure transparent procedures.

RAE, Greece’s Regulatory Authority for Energy, will most likely award the Athens-Crete link’s development to IPTO, but, even so, the power grid operator will need to stage a tender and include other companies. Belgian power grid operator Elia, currently examining details of the wider Greek-Cypriot-Israeli link, is believed to be interested in participating in the Athens-Crete project.

Valuable time will have been lost by next month, when developments are expected, which will increase the urgency of Crete’s looming energy sufficiency problem.



IPTO to skip Brussels meeting on Euroasia Crete link dispute

Greece’s power grid operator IPTO has chosen not to be represented at a meeting scheduled for today in Brussels as an effort to resolve the operator’s dispute with the Euroasia Interconnector consortium for control of the development of Crete’s major-scale electricity grid interconnection with Athens.

The Euroasia Interconnector consortium, responsible for the wider Euroasia Interconnector, a PCI-status project planned to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids via Crete, has insisted on also controlling the project’s Cretan segment.

The adamant stance of Euroasia Interconnector, a consortium of Cypriot interests, makes it pointless for IPTO to be represented at today’s meeting, IPTO officials have concluded, according to enegypress sources.

The Greek and Cypriot regulatory authorities for energy and European Commission officials are all expected be participate at today’s meeting.

Over the past couple of months, the Euroasia consortium has claimed Belgian power grid operator Elia would finance its stake in the Euroasia project. This has yet to occur.

According to sources, Elia intends to conduct a feasibility study to decide if its involvement in the investment plan for the Greek-Cypriot-Israeli interconnection project would be viable.

Sources have not ruled out a meeting between IPTO and Elia officials during the current month for investment plan talks.

At this stage, RAE, Greece’s Regulatory Authority for Energy, appears likely to award IPTO the Crete-Athens segment of the wider project by early September.

IPTO, Euroasia meet seeking consensus on Crete interconnection

IPTO, Greece’s power grid operator, and Euroasia Interconnector, both vying to secure control of the construction of Crete’s major interconnection, linking the island’s grid with Athens, held an initial meeting yesterday, six days into a ten-day deadline set by the Greek and Cypriot regulatory authorities for energy for an agreement.

The Greek and Cypriot regulatory authorities are being pressured by the European Commission to push for a solution.

According to energypress sources, IPTO took the initiative and extended an invitation to Euroasia Interconnector, which agreed to a first round of talks. Even so, no progress appears to have been made at this first session. Both sides are believed to have stuck to their initial positions.

At yesterday’s meeting, IPTO presented Euroasia Interconnector a shareholders agreement based entirely on the details included in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the two sides last October. It envisions a stake of at least 51 percent for IPTO in the project, 39 percent for Euroasia Interconnector, and 10 percent for private-sector investors. Euroasia Interconnector pledged it would offer a response to this plan within the next few days.

The MoU foresees the establishment of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) by IPTO and Euroasia Interconnector for the project’s financing and development. This appears to be a pivotal detail keeping the two sides apart.

Euroasia Interconnector contends that it is responsible for the project’s construction and has noted the SPV should only concern financial aspects.

The Euroasia Interconnector consortium insists it was formed to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids via a Crete interconnection as an entire project, adding it has already been classified as an EU Project of Common Interest (PCI). As a result, Euroasia not only holds priority rights over the Cretan section of the overall interconnection project but has an overall responsibility as well, Euroasia Interconnector contends. Euroasia has noted it only recognizes ACER, the European Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, as a supervisory body.

Euroasia Interconnector has already reached a partnership agreement with Belgium’s ELIA and contends it can fully cover the project’s entire financing needs, a claim that remains unsubstantiated. The credit ability of Euroasia Interconnector represents a key factor in any future agreement for collaboration between IPTO and Euroasia Interconnector. IPTO has already made significant progress in this faculty following the recent signing of a 200 million-euro loan agreement, at a favorable interest rate, with the Bank of China and ICBC.

At a meeting last week, European Commission officials clearly favored the Greek and Cypriot regulatory authorities as the two bodies responsible for handling the dispute. This means that commitments based on decisions already made by the two regulatory authorities should remain valid.

On the one hand, Euroasia Interconnector has been granted a license for the overall project under the condition that the Crete-Athens interconnection will be co-developed with IPTO, while, on the other, IPTO has already included the Crete-Athens interconnection into its ten-year plan under the condition it collaborates with Euroasia Interconnector.

If the dispute is not settled soon, both sides could loose their existing rights to the project, which would require a restart of the entire procedure, an authority told energypress.




Coral entering natural gas supply market, eyeing Balkans

Motor Oil Hellas subsidiary Coral’s (Shell) plan to enter the natural gas market and penetrate the Balkan and Cypriot regions was highlighted at a company event yesterday, held to mark the launch of a Coral company bond.

The company, which currently holds a 23 percent share of the fuels market and maintains a network representing 15 percent of the market, made clear its natural gas market aspirations.

“We have acquired a retail [natural gas supply] license and aim to utilize our network’s retail systems. We already have our first two [major] clients,” Giorgos Hatzopoulos, general manager at Coral, noted at the event, adding that trial runs are now being conducted for supply to a further 18 major-scale customers. “We will enter the retail natural gas market and, potentially, those of other energy forms,” he added.

Last year was significant for Coral as the firm began operating beyond Greece for the first time. This foreign activity was launched in Cyprus through the firm’s acquisition of Lukoil’s network of 31 retail outlets, holding an 8 percent share of the market. Coral aims to increase this Cypriot presence to 15 percent and 50 outlets within the next two years.

Besides Cyprus, Coral also acquired one retail outlet in Serbia. In just a few days from now, Coral expects to launch an additional outlet in Belgrade and follow up with the opening of a station in Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city.

Coral also holds the rights to use the Shell brand name in Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom).

Coral plans to use its storage facilties in Kalohori, slightly west of Thessaloniki, to develop its market presence in the wider Balkan region.

Besides Kalohori, Coral also maintains company-owned storage facilities in northern Greece’s Kavala and Alexandroupoli, the Piraeus port city’s Perama district and Hania in Crete, all offering a total capacity of 150,493 cubic meters.

Coral expects its sales performance to reach 2.4 billion euros this year, from 1.94 billion euros last year, as a result of the rise in fuel prices and the firm’s entry into the shipping fuel market.

Coral posted an EBITDA (operating profit) figure of 44 million euros in 2017. This year, the company plans to make investments worth 35 million euros for the development of eight new refuelling stations in Greece, primarily at highway locations, as well as investments in the Balkans and Cyprus.

Over the past five years, Coral’s investments have averaged 17 million euros per year. The firm has invested a total of 85 million euros, mostly to replan its network.





Greek, Cyprus interconnections for EuroAsia budgeted at €2.5bn

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has set a budget limit of 2.345 billion euros for the Crete-Athens and Cyprus-Crete power grid interconnections, representing a considerable part of the ambitious EuroAsia project planned to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli grids.

Greece’s regulatory authority for energy has just published the details of its cross-border cost allocation agreement reached with its Cypriot counterpart, confirming an energypress report published in October.

According to the cross-border agreement signed between the Greek and Cypriot energy authorities, a budget limit of 700 million euros, with 10 percent leeway, has been set for the Crete-Athens interconnection. The budget limit for the Cyprus-Crete interconnection has been set at 1.5 million euros, with a provision for a 5 percent leeway.

The budget limit set for the Cyprus-Crete interconnection presumes EU funding will cover 50 percent of the project’s cost.



Communications cable alongside EuroAsia Interconnector

An agreement has been reached for the installation of a submarine communications cable system (Quantum Cable) to connect Greece, Cyprus and Israel. It will run parallel to the EuroAsia Interconnector, planned to link the power grids of the three countries.

It has just been revealed that a Memorandum of Cooperation was signed last week in Nicosia between Quantum Cable and a leading global sector player based in the US for the communications cable system’s installation.

This subsea ultra-fast cable system will be installed at a depth of more than 3,000 meters. Its overall development cost is expected to reach approximately 200 million dollars and will be undertaken by the Quantum Cable firm.

Nasos Ktorides, who heads both Quantum Cable and the EuroAsia Interconnector consortium, formed to develop a 2,000-MW electricity interconnection, noted that the Quantum Cable submarine communications cable system will offer considerable capacity to handle tens of millions of concurrent high-resolution teleconferences between Asia and Europe.

A simultaneous launch for the two projects is being planned, which would greatly reduce the development costs of both.

Ktorides noted that the fiber-optic cable connection will also play a supportive role for the growing demand in high-speed connections, Cloud, data center and electronic services between Asia and Europe.

Last June, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Israeli and Cypriot counterparts, Benjamin Netanyahu and Nicos Anastasiades, respectively, agreed to support the development of the undersea cable, whose broader scale is seen as a vital link between Europe, the Middle East and Asia.




East Med natural gas pipeline MoU to be signed in Nicosia today

Greece’s energy minister Giorgos Stathakis is in Nicosia today for a four-way Greek, Cypriot, Israeli and Italian meeting, along with EU participation, at which a Memorandum of Understanding for the East Med natural gas pipeline project is expected to be signed.

The prospective pipeline project is planned to carry southeast Mediterranean natural gas deposits along a route stretching from Israel to Europe.

Rejuvenated interest expressed by Italian officials in East Med has bolstered the ambitious project’s development prospects and prompted European Commission support for the project.

Preliminary studies co-financed by the EU have determined the project is technically feasible, financially sustainable and commercially competitive.

Its annual transmission capacity is planned to measure 10 billion cubic meters. The pipeline will be designed to enable a capacity increase to 16 billion cubic meters if needed. The project’s cost is estimated at 6 billion euros. Studies conducted to date indicate the project could be completed by 2025.

Following up on today’s MoU, technical teams representing Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Italy are scheduled to meet on December 21 to sign a finalized agreement.

Then, the leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel plan to stage a three-way meeting in Nicosia on January 8.

An article published by the Jerusalem Post to coincide with today’s four-way meeting presented the Greek-Cypriot-Israeli energy collaboration as part of a “series strategic interests” as well as an effort by the three countries to “restrict the Russia-Iran-Hezbollah axis in the region.”

This description has raised eyebrows and further complicates any attempt to determine hydrocarbon trends in the southeast Mediterranean, highly significant both geopolitically and geoeconomically.



Minister heading to Nicosia for EuroAfrica Interconnector

Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis is scheduled to attend a trilateral meeting in Nicosia next Tuesday where Greek, Cypriot and Egyptian officials will discuss the development of the EuroAfrica Interconnector, a 2,000-MW submarine cable project planned to link the electricity networks of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt with the European system.

Next week’s meeting comes follows a Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Egyptian electricity company EEHC in Cairo last February.

The ambassadors of Greece and Cyprus, as well as top officials from Egypt’s electricity and energy ministry, attended February’s signing ceremony, during which Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi expressed personal interest for the interconnection project’s development.

The EuroAfrica Interconnector promises to provide considerable economic and geopolitical benefits to the countries involved, Greek, Cypriot and Egyptian officials have pointed out.

Sector experts will also attend next Tueday’s meeting to offer their views on the project’s prospects and sustainability, and also present the results of studies called for by the MoU.

If officials reach a consensus on the findings, prospects and sustainability, then procedures leading to the project’s actualization are expected to gain momentum.

According to initial estimates, the interconnection project will require 36 months to develop once all related studies have been completed.

Greece is also involved in another prospective international interconnection project, the EuroAsia Interconnector, along with Cyprus and Israel.

Development of both projects promises to establish Cyprus as a hub linking the electricity networks of three continents.

According to reports, a further extension of the EuroAfrica Interconnector, to incorporate other African and Middle East countries, is also being looked at. Such a prospect would greatly increase the significance of both projects and their combined role in the transmission of electricity from various sources to Europe’s network.


PPC Renewables, Chinese partner Sumec eyeing Cyprus

Two months after signing a Memorandum of Understanding, PPC Renewables, a wholly owned subsidiary of main power utility PPC, and China’s Sumec Group, a member of the China National Machinery Industry Corporation (Sinomach), are preparing to enter the Cypriot market.

The two partners intend to establish a joint venture for development of RES projects, especially wind and solar facilities, as well as energy efficiency initiatives through emphasis on net metering, a domain expected to experience considerable growth in Cyprus over the next few years.

Ilias Monaholias, the head official at PPC Renewables, who recently made note of the MoU signed with Sumac, stressed that emphasis will be placed on identifying the best possible RES sector investments and bolstering the investment activity of PPC Renewables, domestically and abroad.

Christopher Tan, director of Sumec Clean Energy International, informed the company is examining prospective projects in the Balkans and wider southeast Europe region.

China National Machinery Industry Corporation (Sinomach), Sumec’s parent company, also controls CMEC, which has signed an MoU with PPC for development of lignite projects.