IGB nearing completion, Bulgarian PM to visit Komotini

The Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas pipeline, whose construction is expected to be completed by mid-April, promises to contribute to the EU’s effort for drastically reduced reliance on Russian gas.

The IGB gas pipeline, a 50-50 joint venture of the ICGB consortium, involving Greek-Italian company IGI Poseidon (DEPA and Edison) and Bulgaria’s BEH, will run from Komotini, northeastern Greece, to Stara Zagora in Bulgaria and be linked with the TAP pipeline that runs across northern Greece for supply of Azerbaijaini gas to the region.

The IGB pipeline will offer a second interconnection between Greece and Bulgaria, in addition to the nearby Sidirokastro link.

Last week, EU officials announced a new energy strategy, Repower EU, aiming to reduce Russian gas imports to the continent by two-thirds. The establishment of alternative energy supply routes into Europe is now a priority on the Brussels agenda.

Bulgarian prime minister Kiril Petkov is scheduled to visit the IGB project contactor AVAX’s construction site in Komotini this Friday. His Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been forced to miss the occasion after being sidelined by the Covid-19 virus. Energy minister Kostas Skrekas will fill in.

Escalating war increases threat of gas shortages, prices surging

The escalating war in Ukraine following last week’s invasion by Russian forces has increased fears of natural gas shortages in the European market, which has led to a new price surge, adding to the price ascent prompted by the preceding energy crisis.

Markets are now jittery over concerns that the ongoing bombardments in Ukraine could damage gas pipelines running across the country. The prospect of a Russian retaliation to stricter sanctions threatened by the west is another concern pressuring markets.

Greece is in a somewhat sheltered position as the country imports Russian gas quantities via the Turkstream pipeline, crossing the Black Sea, but, given the overall developments, Athens cannot remain complacent.

The country’s crisis management committee will be meeting again today to discuss measures should the adverse conditions created by Russia’s war in Ukraine deteriorate further.

Greek authorities are expected to try and maintain reserves at the country’s LNG terminal on the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens, as close as possible to full capacity, and use pipeline gas to the fullest extent.

The country’s gas needs for March have been fully covered by four LNG shipment orders – two by Elpedison, and one each by Mytilineos and DEPA – expected at the Revythoussa terminal. Additional orders could be placed if needed. LNG orders have yet to be placed for April.

Natural gas prices surged yesterday, ending the day at 121 euros per MWh. At such a level, retail electricity prices could reach close to 300 euros per MWh. Today’s retail electricity price is 254.94 euros per MWh.

Europe now appears determined to reduce its dependency on Russian gas, covering between 40 and 45 percent of the continent’s needs. The issue has become a top priority on the EU agenda, but the road towards achieving this objective remains unclear.

DEPA discounts for consumers on a month-by-month basis

Gas company DEPA plans to offer discounts to household consumers on a month-by-month basis, depending on its ability to maneuver, international market prices and market needs, energypress sources have informed.

DEPA also plans to offer a certain level of gas discounts to industrial producers in the medium voltage category.

The gas company has just reached a pricing-formula deal with Russia’s Gazprom for supply in 2022 whose price is 80 percent indexed with the Dutch TTF gas hub, the other 20 percent oil-indexed, deemed.

The Gazprom deal, deemed as a fair agreement by analysts, offers DEPA some leeway for discounts  over the coming months.

Based on current market conditions, DEPA’s agreement with Gazprom results in a wholesale gas price of 77.40 euros per MWh, 12.60 euros less than yesterday’s gas futures prices for February.

DEPA-Gazprom gas talks now focused on pricing formula

Gas utility DEPA’s negotiations with Russia’s Gazprom over a pricing formula for gas supply in 2022 are continuing with some apparent progress but no agreement as yet.

The Russian side went into the talks demanding a gas pricing formula fully indexed with the Dutch gas platform TTF index, but this appears to have now been succeeded by a revised proposal for a gas price 80 percent indexed with the TTF, the other 20 percent oil-indexed.

Gazprom also wants the new pricing formula to run until the end of 2026, when the company’s supply agreement with DEPA expires, not just for 2022.

Another demand by the Russian gas company for reduced annual quantities was flatly rejected by DEPA as a proposal crossing the red line. This Gazprom demand appears to have been taken off the negotiating table, the Russian company now seeming willing to accept an unchanged annual quantity of two billion cubic meters until 2026.

Talks, as a result, now appear to be entirely focused on the pricing formula.

DEPA’s agreement with Gazprom, its main supplier, expires in 2026 but is subject to annual talks concerning pricing formula and take-or-play clause revisions.

DESFA joining Alexandroupoli FSRU, development imminent

Gas grid operator DESFA is set to sign a contract next week for the acquisition of a 20 percent stake in Gastrade, the consortium established by the Copelouzos group for the development and operation of Alexandroupoli FSRU, a floating LNG terminal planned for Greece’s northeast, energypress sources have informed.

The European Commission offered its approval of DESFA’s entry into the Gastrade consortium approximately three weeks ago. The endorsement was needed as DESFA, operator of Greece’s gas grid, will also be entering an independent gas system by acquiring a 20 percent of Gastrade, making the operator the fifth member of the consortium.

Besides the Copelouzos group, currently holding a 40 percent stake, the Gastrade consortium is also made up of Gaslog Cyprus Investments, a fully owned subsidiary of Gaslog Ltd, owning and operating over 35 LNG tankers; Greek gas utility DEPA; and Bulgartransgaz, each holding 20 percent stakes. DESFA’s entry will give all partners equal 20 percent shares.

A finalized investment decision on the Alexandroupoli FSRU is expected within the first few days of 2022 so that the project can be developed and ready for launch within 2023.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU has, for years, been included on the EU’s projects of common interest (PCI) list, making the prospective facility eligible for favorable EU funding support, as its actualization will contribute to energy source diversification and also bolster energy security and competition in the wider region.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU will become the country’s fourth entry point for natural gas. It is planned to supply up to 944,000 cubic meters of natural gas per hour, or 8.3 billion cubic meters annually, and offer an LNG storage capacity of 170,000 cubic meters.

Gazprom negotiations to shape DEPA’s discount ability

A favorable gas supply agreement for gas utility DEPA with Russia’s Gazprom, not too far from the existing deal – indexed to the Dutch TTF gas platform with a 40 percent coefficient, the other 60 percent oil indexed – would enable DEPA to increase its discount rate for December and the first quarter of 2022 from 15 percent to 30 percent, otherwise the discount rate will need to be smaller, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and energy minister Kostas Skrekas have noted.

DEPA, currently locked in negotiations with Gazprom, cannot take any discount-policy initiatives until its talks with the Russian gas company, Greece’s dominant supplier, have concluded.

DEPA chief executive Konstantinos Xirafas (photo) will be continuing talks, via video calls, with Gazprom today.

At this stage, it appears that the Russian company’s initial demand for a 2022 pricing formula 100-percent TTF-indexed has now fallen to 80 percent, the other 20 percent oil indexed. The TTF index has risen by over 500 percent over the past year.

Greece is aiming for an improvement in the pricing formula, negotiated annually as part of a Gazprom supply agreement with DEPA expiring in 2026.

Agreement still not reached in Gazprom formula negotiations

Greek officials have yet to make any progress in negotiations with Russia’s Gazprom for an improved pricing formula concerning gas supply to gas utility DEPA in 2022, as indicated by the government’s failure to make any related announcements yesterday following a meeting in Sochi between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Russian President Vladimir Putin, their first as heads of state.

Greece is aiming for an improvement in the pricing formula, negotiated annually as part of a Gazprom supply agreement with DEPA expiring in 2026. Whatever the outcome of these negotiations, price levels will be higher than a year ago, given the energy crisis, but Greek officials are striving to subdue the Gazprom price increase as much as possible.

Gazprom, Greece’s main gas supplier, went into the negotiations with a 2022 pricing formula proposal that would index its gas supply price with Dutch gas platform TTF’s index at a coefficient of 100 percent, up from the current 40 percent level. Under the current pricing formula, the remaining 60 percent of Gazprom’s supply price for DEPA is oil-indexed.

The TTF index has risen by over 500 percent over the past year, meaning Gazprom’s proposal would lift gas supply prices to DEPA by five times, a prospect that has been flatly rejected by the Greek government.

A compromise deal entailing TTF indexing between 60 and 80 percent, for example, would offer some improvement compared to Gazprom’s initial offer, but gas prices will nevertheless end up being higher for households, businesses and industrial producers in Greece.

DEPA Commercial privatization decision expected in January

A decision on whether to defer the final binding-bids stage in the 100 percent privatization of gas company DEPA Commercial is not expected until January, according to sources. Officials are delaying the progress of this sale fearing negative impact that could stem from the energy crisis and an unresolved legal dispute between the gas company and fertilizer industry ELFE.

The country’s privatization fund TAIPED is waiting to see how the government decides to move ahead on a number of issues, and is also awaiting the stance of ELPE (Greek Petroleum), which holds a 35 percent stake in DEPA Commercial, before reaching a decision, the sources noted. TAIPED controls the Greek State’s 65 percent share of DEPA Commercial.

Though the legal dispute between DEPA and ELFE could drag on for months, the DEPA Commercial sale has not been put on hold as authorities are pursuing a solution, according to TAIPED sources.

ELFE is seeking compensation from DEPA, contending the gas company overpriced gas supply between 2010 and 2015, while DEPA has filed a case seeking overdue amounts from the fertilizer producer, based in Kavala, northern Greece.

On the other front, ELPE is likely to seek to sell its 35 percent share of DEPA Commercial regardless of what the government and TAIPED decide to do with their 65 percent share, sources informed.

One alternative being contemplated is to divide DEPA Commercial so as to enable the sale of subsidiary gas supplier Fysiko Aerio Elladas. Another possibility examined by TAIPED is to list DEPA Commercial on the Athens Stock Exchange, though this is seen as highly unlikely given the insecurity the ongoing ELFE legal case would cause among investors.

Results of push for improved Russian gas deal seen today

A meeting today in Sochi between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis with Russian President Vladimir Putin – their first as heads of state – will made clear if preceding negotiations between officials of the two countries have come to anything for an improved Gazprom gas supply contract for Greek gas utility DEPA in 2022.

Any improvement for DEPA is regarded as a challenging task and would represent a major surprise if pulled off, given the unfavorable conditions, internationally.

The Greek Prime Minister is seeking an improved gas supply deal from Russia, the country’s main supplier, in an effort to boost support offered to Greek households and industry, struggling in the energy crisis, through further energy cost discounts.

Russia currently supplies 45 percent of natural gas consumed in Greece as well as nearly 10 percent of the country’s crude oil.

DEPA’s agreement with Russia’s Gazprom Export, its main supplier, expires in 2026 but is subject to annual talks concerning pricing formula and take-or-play clause revisions.

The Russian side has pushed for the 2022 agreement with DEPA to be fully indexed to the Dutch TTF gas index, but this index has risen 500 percent since last year, prompting Greek officials to resist.

According to energypress sources, Russia has maintained a tough stance in its negotiations with Greek officials, as was highlighted at a meeting yesterday in Saint Petersburg between Greek energy minister Kostas Skrekas and Gazprom’s chief executive Alexey Miller over the pricing formula to apply for Russian gas supply to Greece in 2022.

Greek officials want to avoid a DEPA-Gazprom agreement that is fully indexed to the Dutch TTF gas index and are believed to be aiming for a TTF pricing coefficient of between 60 and 70 percent, which would enable an oil-indexed price for the other 30 to 40 percent.

Crucial Gazprom pricing formula talks in St. Petersburg

Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas is scheduled to meet Russian gas company Gazprom’s chief executive Alexey Miller in Saint Petersburg today for crucial talks over the pricing formula to apply for Russian gas supply to Greece in 2022.

Russia currently supplies 45 percent of natural gas consumed in Greece as well as nearly 10 percent of the country’s crude oil, making today’s talks pivotal for the competitiveness of Greek industry and living standards of households amid the energy crisis.

Gazprom, aiming to capitalize on the sharp rise in natural gas prices, wants the pricing formula to be fully indexed with the Dutch TTF gas hub index, which the Greek side says it cannot accept, according to comments offered by a senior official to energypress.

Greek gas utility DEPA’s agreement with Gazprom is currently entirely oil-indexed. The two sides had agreed to an extraordinary revision for 2020 and 2021 indexing prices with the TTF gas index as oil prices were considerably higher. The opposite is now the case, with LNG prices well above oil prices in recent months. Gazprom officials now prefer prices to not be fully indexed to oil.

DEPA’s pending agreement with Russia’s Gazprom Export, its main supplier, expires in 2026 but is subject to annual talks concerning pricing formula and take-or-play clause revisions.

Natural gas a leading issue at upcoming Greek-Russian talks

Energy matters, especially sharply risen natural prices, will be high on the agenda at a forthcoming 13th Greek-Russian Joint Interministerial Committee scheduled to take place in Moscow on November 29 and 30.

Gas utility DEPA’s current contract with Russia’s Gazprom runs until 2026 but the two sides renegotiate, each year, the details of its pricing formula and a take-or-pay clause incorporated into the agreement.

DEPA’s supply agreement with Gazprom is entirely oil-indexed but an extraordinary revision was made for 2020 and 2021 as oil prices were extremely high, well over LNG price levels. A large proportion of Russian gas received by DEPA was indexed with the TTF gas hub in the Netherlands.

The situation has overturned this year, LNG prices rising well above oil prices. As a result, Gazprom wants to avoid a fully oil-indexed agreement for gas supply to DEPA in 2022 and prefers a hybrid solution that would partially index its gas prices with the TTF.

DEPA and Gazprom have yet to reach an agreement, but the two sides will need to converge by the end of this month, which would enable the Greek gas company to set prices and establish deals with customers in the Greek market.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is scheduled to travel to Moscow on December 8 for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the first direct meeting between the two leaders since Mitsotakis assumed office in July, 2019.

 

DEPA in gas supplier talks for ’22 prices, Gazprom deal crucial

Gas company DEPA is currently engaged in negotiations with its suppliers for agreements  covering 2022, its talks with main supplier Gazprom being the most crucial. The pricing formula to be agreed on by DEPA with Gazprom will greatly shape the prices to be offered by the Greek company to its customers – electricity producers, industrial producers and retail energy suppliers.

Though there are signs of a possible price de-escalation, gas prices remain elevated. The percentage of Gazprom supply to be oil-indexed will be a pivotal factor in price levels offered by DEPA to customers.

DEPA has already reached an agreement with Algeria’s Sonetrach for a one-year extension to a deal expiring at the end of 2021, energypress sources have informed. A hybrid pricing formula primarily based on the Dutch TTF index has been agreed to, the sourced added.

Greece’s agreement with Turkey’s BOTAS, for natural gas originating from Azerbaijan, is set to expire at the end of this year, but no moves have been made for a renewal as Azeri gas has been supplied by Azerbaijan Gas Supply to the Greek market since the end of 2020 through the new TAP route. This supply contract, fixed and not subject to negotiation, is valid until 2044.

DEPA’s pending agreement with Russia’s Gazprom Export, its main supplier, is the most crucial. It expires in 2026 but is subject to annual talks concerning pricing formula and take-or-play clause revisions.

DEPA’s agreement with Gazprom is currently entirely oil-indexed. The the two sides had agreed to an extraordinary revision for 2020 and 2021 indexing prices with the TTF gas index as oil prices were considerably higher. The opposite is now the case, with LNG prices well above oil prices. Gazprom officials now prefer prices to not be fully indexed to oil.

 

DEPA Comm., ELFE appeals this week, key for privatization

An Athens Court of Appeal will, on Thursday, hear three appeals submitted by gas utility DEPA and fertilizer industry ELFE following a Court of First Instance verdict in 2019 concerning an ongoing legal dispute between the two companies.

ELFE is seeking 302 million euros in compensation from DEPA, contending the gas company overpriced gas supply between 2010 and 2015.

DEPA has also filed a case seeking 86.7 million euros from the fertilizer producer, based in Kavala, northern Greece, in overdue amounts. The Court of First Instance had issued a verdict trimming this amount to 60 million euros. It is now the turn of the Athens Court of Appeal to decide.

Much attention is being paid to this case as, should it drag on, it could impact the ongoing 100 percent privatization of DEPA Commercial. In addition, a decision vindicating ELFE can be expected to also prompt other gas consumers to file overpricing cases against DEPA.

If the legal battle is prolonged, TAIPED, the privatization fund, could temporarily shelve the privatization until a final legal decision is reached. Another option being considered by the government is for the Greek State to cover any resulting compensation claims if ELFE is vindicated, as a form of guarantee for the prospective buyers.

The Greek State’s 65 percent stake is being offered by TAIPED, the privatization fund, and Hellenic Petroleum ELPE is also selling its 35 percent stake.

DEPA: CNG, LNG supply in remote areas must be competition-based

Gas company DEPA Commercial has objected to a RAE (Regulatory Authority for Energy) proposal calling for the development of distribution networks at remote areas for CNG and LNG supply, noting, in related public consultation, that such a move would not reflect international practices, according to which CNG and LNG compression and transportation activities are taken on by suppliers based on free market competition conditions and prospects.

The RAE proposal for CNG and LNG distribution networks covering supply in remote areas is extremely restrictive and does not allow for alternatives that would facilitate greater competition and reduced costs for consumers, DEPA Commercial contended.

Also, any decision to develop virtual pipeline networks in remote areas should serve as a temporary solution and ensure that the normal development of distribution networks is not undermined, DEPA Commercial noted.

Gas grid operator DESFA, in its contribution to the public consultation procedure, noted that if a virtual pipeline network is regarded as part of the national grid, then this would help boost social welfare, minimize any potential burden on existing gas consumers, and maximize the positive impact of natural gas penetration in Greece.

 

 

Power producer LNG orders unaffected by higher gas prices

Increased natural gas prices in international markets have not restrained LNG imports at gas grid operator DESFA’s Revythoussa islet terminal just off Athens, data provided by the operator has shown.

LNG orders at the Revythoussa terminal for the two-month period covering August and September, placed primarily by power producers, seeking international market opportunities to subdue fuel costs, as well as gas company DEPA, total more than 742,000 cubic meters, the DESFA data showed.

This quantity represents six LNG tanker loads, ordered by as many key domestic natural gas market players for the two-month period.

Two loads, the first for power utility PPC and Motor Oil Hellas, and the second for Elpedison, arrived during the first half of August. A third tanker carrying LNG orders placed by Mytilineos and Heron will follow this month, bringing August’s LNG orders total at the Revythoussa terminal to 376,000 cubic meters.

Three more LNG shipments are scheduled to arrive at the Revythoussa facility in September. The first of these concerns orders placed by PPC and Motor Oil Hellas totaling 146,000 cubic meters. The second shipment will be for a 73,000-cubic meter order placed by DEPA, while the third concerns a 147,000-cubic meter order made by Elpedison.

Natural gas prices have remained high in international markets, currently about triple the price of levels in March.

Greek enterprises face April 27 date for hydrogen project proposals

Leading Greek energy players are gearing up to participate in a European Commission effort concerning the development of the continent’s first major investments in eco-friendly hydrogen production, a key aspect in Brussels’ decarbonization drive.

Interested parties face an April 27 deadline to submit proposals concerning a number of categories, including PCI-supported sustainable low-emission hydrogen production, the emphasis placed on RES-generated hydrogen.

The White Dragon project, as it has been dubbed, has brought Greece’s biggest industrial corporations closer, as they prepare to jointly bid for project categories Brussels will subsidize in the context of the Hydrogen Europe program.

The White Dragon project provides for investments of 2.5 billion euros in electrolytic hydrogen production by means of solar energy from photovoltaic parks with a capacity of 1.5 GW. They are planned for northern Greece’s west Macedonia region, a lignite-dependent economy.

Gas utility DEPA, gas grid operator DESFA, petroleum group Motor Oil, the Mytilineos group, Terna, Hellenic Petroleum ELPE, Polish company Solaris, as well as the Demokritos National Center for Scientific Research and the Center for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH) are taking part.

The hydrogen to be produced will be used for district heating, fuel to be exported via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, and as fuel for large vehicles such as lorries and buses.

 

EastMed alliance broadens, eight countries express support

Support for the EastMed pipeline, planned to transport natural gas from offshore Levantine Basin gas reserves in the southeast Mediterranean to Greece and further into Europe, is growing in numbers with an initial Greek-Israeli-Cypriot alliance promoting this project now joined by five additional partners, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Serbia and North Macedonia.

Energy ministers representing these eight countries forwarded a letter of support for the EastMed project to the European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson late last week, Greece’s energy and environment minister Kostas Skrekas has told local media.

The pipeline, to be developed by IGI Poseidon SA, a 50-50% joint venture between Greek gas utility DEPA and Italian gas utility Edison, is planned to cover a 1,470-km distance.

IGI Poseidon plans to develop EastMed all the way to Italy via Cyprus, Crete, the Peloponnese, mainland Greece and Epirus, the country’s northwestern flank.

This latest move, bringing the eight energy ministers together for the joint letter, was initiated by Skrekas, Greece’s energy minister, sources informed, following an initiative taken two months earlier by his Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz to organize a joint virtual conference involving ministers of all eight countries.

In their letter to Simson, the EU energy commissioner, the eight ministers highlight the importance of EastMed, noting the project promises to contribute to the wider region’s energy security and offer benefits to consumers as a result of increased competition and reduced natural gas price levels.

Regional gas interconnections, including the Greek-Bulgarian IGB, Bulgarian-Serbian IBS, Bulgarian-Romanian IBR and the Romanian-Hungarian IRH would be utilized to extend EastMed’s reach, the letter notes.

Greece and North Macedonia are currently planning a new gas pipeline interconnection whose Greek segment is being promoted by gas grid operator DESFA.

DEPA Commercial, Infrastructure sales delayed, new June bids deadline seen

The privatization schedule for gas utility DEPA’s two offshoots, DEPA Commercial and DEPA Infrastructure, appears headed for further delay as a result of four main issues holding back procedures, sources closely monitoring these sales have informed.

The privatization fund TAIPED had initially planned to accept financial offers for DEPA Commercial and DEPA Infrastructure this month but has since unofficially extended these offer deadlines to April. Further revisions cannot be ruled out, the most likely outcome being a deferral of these deadlines to the end of June.

As for the DEPA Commercial sale, lockdown restrictions have made it difficult for potential buyers to visit the company facilities for on-the-spot technical and financial appraisals as well as clarification on vague points. This has delayed the accumulation of information needed by possible buyers for a complete picture on the gas company’s financial standing.

In addition, an ongoing legal battle between DEPA Commercial and ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals) has also unsettled potential buyers. According to sources, investors are demanding protection in the form of guarantees should any court verdict require DEPA Commercial to compensate ELFE over a gas-pricing dispute.

Two issues are also obstructing the DEPA Infrastructure sale. Firstly, Italy’s Eni, currently holding a 49 percent stake in EDA THESS, a DEPA Infrastructure subsidiary distributing to the Thessaloniki and Thessaly areas, wants to sell its stake. As a result, two options are being examined. One entails DEPA Infrastructure buying Eni’s 49 percent stake in EDA THESS. The other involves incorporating EDA THESS into the DEPA Infrastructure sale.

The other concern holding back proceedings for the DEPA Infrastructure sale has to do with pending appraisals, by the possible buyers, of new distribution network development plans prepared by the gas company’s three distribution subsidiaries, which, besides EDA THESS, include EDA Attiki, covering Athens, and DEDA, covering the rest of Greece. Suitors may require as much as two months to complete their respective appraisals.

DEPA Commercial sale moving ahead as planned despite ELFE legal dispute

Privatization fund TAIPED intends to move ahead as planned with the next round of the sale of gas company DEPA Commercial by setting a spring binding-bids deadline for candidates, despite concerns that an ongoing legal dispute between the company and ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals) could impact the privatization’s proceedings, sources have informed.

An appeal filed by gas utility DEPA, DEPA Commercial’s parent company, challenging an Athens Court of First Instance verdict that ordered the company to return 61 million euros to ELFE as a result of overcharging was yesterday deferred for September and will now probably be jointly heard along with a separate appeal case involving the two companies over a similar amount of unpaid receivables owed by the fertilizer and chemicals producer to DEPA.

This ongoing legal dispute has caused uncertainty among potential buyers of DEPA Commercial as it is complicating their bid calculations.

TAIPED is currently engaged in talks with the finance and energy ministries for the establishment of an appropriate formula concerning a related term in the privatization’s sale and purchase agreement that would offer candidates security to a great extent.

A court ruling in favor of ELFE, in the DEPA overcharging case, could prompt other DEPA customers, such as electricity producers and industrial producers, to take legal action against the utility over overcharging claims. This could end up costing DEPA many hundreds of millions.

Outcome of DEPA appeal against ELFE crucial for sale

The outcome of tomorrow’s appeal filed by gas utility DEPA against ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals) following an Athens Court of First Instance verdict ordering a 61 million-euro return from the gas utility for gas supply overcharging will be crucial for the privatization of DEPA Commercial, a new DEPA entity formed for the sale.

According to legal experts, tomorrow’s hearing could be deferred until September so that it may be concurrently heard with an ensuing appeal filed, in response, by ELFE against DEPA to challenge a separate Court of First Instance decision in October, 2019 that ordered ELFE to pay the gas company about 60 million euros in unpaid receivables. DEPA had sought 86.7 million euros. This ELFE appeal was given a September, 2021 date.

Combining appeal cases is commonly practiced by courts, the legal sources pointed out.

Postponement of tomorrow’s appeal case until September may prompt the privatization fund TAIPED to extend a March deadline it had set for binding bids concerning the DEPA Commercial privatization. Potential buyers would want to know the outcome of the DELA-ELFE legal dispute before placing any offers.

A court ruling in favor of ELFE could prompt other DEPA customers, such as electricity producers and industrial producers, to take legal action against the utility over overcharging claims.

The Court of First Instance ruled DEPA overcharged ELFE between 2010 and 2015 by applying an oil-indexed gas pricing formula used by Russia’s Gazprom. ELFE sought 302 million euros, well over the a 61 million-euro return determined by the court.

Key issues in new minister’s first session with EC officials

Today’s first meeting, via teleconference, between Greece’s recently appointed energy minister Kostas Skrekas and European Commission authorities, as part of Brussels’ ninth post-bailout review, will focus on four key issues: power utility PPC’s lignite monopoly; the proper functioning of target model markets; energy-sector privatizations, and the decarbonization plan for west Macedonia, a lignite-dependent area in the country’s north.

The four issues were addressed in preliminary talks last week between Alexandra Sdoukou, secretary-general of Greece’s environment and energy ministry and Brussels technocrats.

It remains to be seen if the European Commission will again commend Athens, and to what extent, for the target model’s functioning, as Brussels had done last November, when the model’s new markets in Greece were launched as a step to harmonize EU energy markets.

However, weeks into the launch, balancing market costs skyrocketed, leading to sharply increased wholesale electricity prices. RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, is now considering to introduce an adjustable price-containing measure to be set as a percentage of day-ahead market prices.

The European Commission, in the latest talks, can also be expected to push for the launch of a market test concerning an agreement offering independent players access to PPC’s lignite-based electricity production.

Though the interest of independent players for lignite-based electricity may have diminished given its increased cost, this antitrust case, unresolved for years, remains a big concern for the government as Brussels could associate it with pending Greek issues.

The complexity of PPC’s lignite monopoly case was deepened following a decision by the previous energy minister, Costis Hatzidakis, to bundle the matter with a Greek compensation request based on the utility’s need to keep running lignite-fired power stations for energy sufficiency. According to reports, his successor, Skrekas, will not sway from this policy.

As for energy-sector privatizations, a sale plan for gas supplier DEPA Commercial has attracted considerable interest but officials are concerned as parent company DEPA is embroiled in an ongoing lawsuit with ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals).

DEPA has appealed a verdict awarding the producer a compensation amount of 60 million euros following overcharging claims. The case could be deferred until September, meaning binding bids by possible DEPA Commercial buyers may need to be delayed.

Greece’s decarbonization master plan features 16 key investment proposals that are expected to create over 8,000 jobs, directly and indirectly, in lignite-dependent areas. However, numerous complex matters need to be resolved, including the transfer of related property controlled by PPC, Brussels’ approval of a series of incentives for new investments, and scores of licensing issues.

DEPA appeal against ELFE on January 28, deferral possible

A January 28 date has been set for an appeal filed by gas supplier DEPA Commercial to challenge a 2019 ruling by an Athens Court of First Instance that vindicated an overcharging claim by ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals), awarding the producer a compensation amount worth 61 million euros.

ELFE was seeking a compensation amount of 302 million euros, arguing DEPA – the gas utility from which DEPA Commercial later sprung forth as a new group entity – overcharged between 2010 and 2015 for supply to the producer’s facility in Kavala, northern Greece, by passing on the increased cost of DEPA’s oil-indexed contract with Gazprom.

Also in 2019, the Athens Court of First had concurrently delivered a separate verdict in favor of DEPA, vindicating the gas company for unpaid receivables owed by ELFE. The producer was ordered to pay a sum estimated between 59.5 and 60 million euros.

In response, ELFE, too, filed an appeal opposing this 2019 decision, the hearing’s date set for September, 2021, sources informed.

Legal sources explained that the two appeals could end up being heard concurrently in September, based on a decision that may emerge from the forthcoming appeal ten days from now. Combining appeal cases is commonly practiced by courts, the sources noted.

If so, the amount of time needed to resolve this legal dispute will be extended, which would impact privatization fund TAIPED’s scheduling of the DEPA Commercial privatization.

TAIPED has set a March deadline for binding offers. This deadline could end up being stretched beyond September.

Should DEPA Commercial’s appeal against ELFE ultimately fail, then other customers of the gas company, primarily electricity producers and industrial enterprises, could also seek compensation amounts for overcharging.

Some pundits have pointed out that electricity producers were probably able to pass on to their customers any cost increase resulting from DEPA’s oil-indexed contract with Gazprom. On the contrary, industries did not have such leeway.

DEPA calls for RAE to prioritize Kipoi, Abelia compressor stations

Gas utility DEPA has underlined the gas-supply security importance of two prospective compressor stations in Kipoi, northeastern Greece, and Abelia, in the mid-north, urging RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, to prioritize their development.

The two projects, on a RAE list of infrastructure projects for preventive action, are expected to significantly improve energy supply security in Greece over the mid and long-term by facilitating the transportation process of natural gas.

DEPA stressed the importance of the two compressor stations in a letter forwarded to RAE’s public consultation procedure on its preventive action plan.

The two compressor stations are vital for grid-connection and gas-flow purposes concerning the prospective Alexandroupoli FSRU and an underground gas storage facility (UGS) planned for development at an almost depleted offshore natural gas field in South Kavala, DEPA pointed out in its letter.

Also, the Abelia compressor station is needed to ensure hydraulic gas-flow sufficiency from north to south, via the TAP project, DEPA noted.

Both compressor station projects feature in gas grid operator DESFA’s ten-year development plan covering 2021 to 2030.

North Macedonia involvement in key Alexandroupoli projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outcome of ELFE legal battle crucial for DEPA’s privatization

The outcome of an appeal filed by gas supplier DEPA Commercial to challenge a 2019 ruling by an Athens Court of First Instance that vindicated an overcharging claim by ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals), scheduled to be heard next week, is pivotal for the gas company’s privatization plan.

If ELFE overcomes the appeal lodged by DEPA Commercial – which, as things stand, is expected to return 63 million euros to the fertilizer and chemicals company for overcharged gas supply between 2012 and 2015 – then this precedent will prompt more overcharging cases, for the same period, by other customers, primarily electricity producers and industrial enterprises.

Such a development, which, according to sources, could end up costing DEPA Commercial a total of up to one billion euros in rebates, threatens to derail the company’s privatization procedure as investors would not want to take on such a financial burden. Worse still, DEPA Commercial’s sustainability would be severely tested, the sources added.

DEPA Commercial was formed by gas utility DEPA specifically for its privatization.

The appeals court will require some time before it delivers its verdict. If the ruling is in favor of ELFE, then DEPA Commercial is expected to take the case to the Supreme Court. A prolonged legal battle would surely impact the gas company’s growth plans.

In 2019, the Athens Court of First Instance ruled that DEPA passed on to its customers the cost of an oil-indexed purchase agreement with Russian gas company Gazprom without considering lower prices available at natural gas hubs.

Taking into account this ongoing legal battle, privatization fund TAIPED has set an early-spring deadline for binding bids by potential buyers of DEPA Commercial as well as DEPA Infrastructure, the gas utility’s other new entity.

DEDA appeals Peloponnese gas network plan exclusion

Gas distributor DEDA’s effort for a reversal of decision removing the Peloponnese from the company’s gas network development plan has been rejected by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

In response, DEDA, a subsidiary of gas utility DEPA distributing to areas in Greece not covered by the group’s other distributors, has already taken its case to an appeals court.

RAE has granted gas distribution licenses for three Peloponnesian cities, Tripoli, Korinthos and Megalopoli, to Hengas, a successor of the firm Edil.

The Peloponnese was excluded by RAE from DEDA’s five-year network development plan covering 2020 to 2024 as time limits were exceeded, according to the authority.

RAE, however, has approved DEDA’s five-year development plan for 2021 to 2025, outlining the distributor’s development plan for natural gas networks in 34 provincial cities around Greece, Europe’s biggest gas network plan at present.

Networks representing a total length of 1,860 km and budgeted at 270 million euros are planned to be developed by DEDA, prospectively offering over 68,000 connections for consumers in the household, business and industrial sectors.

Gas market competition intensifies, TAP lowering prices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New minister, just appointed, has issues to resolve in 2021

Kostas Skrekas, just appointed new energy minister as part of the government’s cabinet reshuffle, in place of Costis Hatzidakis, who has headed the ministry for a constructive year and a half, faces a series of pending energy-sector matters that remained unresolved in 2020. They need to be addressed as soon as possible. Developments and conditions this year will be pivotal for these matters.

Skrekas was previously deputy minister for agricultural development and food.

Also in 2021, a year during which takeovers and mergers are seen occurring in the retail electricity and gas markets, rivals will continue battling for market share gains. The target model’s launch two months ago has brought about new conditions, strengthening the positions of vertically integrated suppliers.

The need for a normalization of the target model’s new markets stands as the energy ministry’s most pressing task at present. A sharp rise in wholesale electricity prices as a result of soaring balancing market costs has deeply unsettled the market, impacting the standings of non-vertically integrated suppliers, as well as industrial enterprises and consumers, who face rising bills.

Market coupling with Bulgaria’s day-ahead market, scheduled to take place within the first three months of the new year, is the next step of the target model, a procedure designed to harmonize EU energy markets and promote competition.

New energy-intensive industrial tariffs also need to be set soon. Though essentially a matter concerning state-controlled power utility PPC and Greece’s industrial players, the cost of industrial energy is crucial for Greek industry, carrying particular political and economic weight.

Also, Greece has little time left in its negotiations with Brussels for a framework to offer third parties access to PPC’s lignite-based generation. This issue is no longer as crucial as it once was because the country’s lignite output has been drastically reduced. Even so, it remains important for independent suppliers.

A number of energy-sector privatizations could be completed this year. Gas utility DEPA’s two new entities, DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Commercial, electricity distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, and a tender for a tender for the development of an underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) in the almost depleted natural gas field of “South Kavala” in northern Greece are all on this year’s privatization list.

In renewable energy, the ministry needs to take decisions within the first few months to clarify terms regulating the sector. RES investment interest is currently high. Steps still need to be taken in an ongoing effort to simplify RES licensing procedures, while a legal framework must be established for energy storage, offshore wind farms and hydrogen use.

 

Azeri gas through TAP route now just a fortnight away

Just two weeks remain before the scheduled launch of the TAP gas pipeline on January 1, a development to facilitate the inflow of Azeri gas into the Greek market.

This coming Monday, in the final step before the launch, the TAP project, running across Greece’s north, Albania and the Adriatic Sea to Italy, will be interconnected with Greek gas grid operator DESFA’s domestic network.

Greek gas utility DEPA has already reached an agreement with Azeri officials for an annual amount of 1 bcm through the TAP route. Azerbaijan is offering customers discount prices for 2021.

TAP’s Azeri natural gas supply to the Greek market will represent a fifth gas source alternative for Greece, bolstering the country’s energy security while also promising to offer benefits to consumers and the national economy.

The technical details of the TAP-DESFA pipeline interconnection, situated in Thessaloniki’s Nea Mesimvria area, were completed several weeks ago. The link has undergone testing over the past month or so.

DEPA Commercial, reshaping, seeks electricity supply license

DEPA Commercial, one of gas utility DEPA’s new entities established as part of its privatization, has applied for a 500-MW electricity supply license, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has announced.

This move by DEPA Commercial comes as part of the utility’s restructuring and transformation effort, sources said.

An electricity supply license promises to broaden DEPA Commercial’s portfolio, regardless of whether it will actually be used or not. In essence, the company, through this initiative, is making the most of tools available in the market, sources have concluded.

DEPA Commercial owns Fysiko Aerio – Hellenic Energy Company (EPA Attiki), a subsidiary already active in Greece’s electricity market. DEPA Commercial, however, could use its own electricity supply license for PPAs.