Poseidon overland section plan kept alive, PCI status sought

IGI Poseidon, a 50-50 joint venture between Greek gas utility DEPA and Italian energy operator Edison, is keeping alive the development prospects of an overland Greek segment, across northern Greece, for its Poseidon pipeline, to cross the Ionian Sea for a Greek-Italian link.

DEPA and Edison have submitted an application to the European Commission for PCI status concerning the overland section of Poseidon, enabling EU funding support, sources informed.

The Poseidon pipeline’s onshore segment, planned to stretch 760 km across northern Greece, from Kipous in the northeast, to Florovouni-Thesprotia, in the country’s northwest, before crossing the Ionian Sea all the way to Otranto, on Italy’s east coast, is considered an extension of the EastMed gas pipeline plan to link Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

Poseidon’s onshore segment could be used to transport natural gas from east Mediterranean gas reserves to Balkan markets.

The Poseidon pipeline’s overland section can also be expected to be linked to the Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas pipeline, another project involving IGI Poseidon.

The Greek-Italian Poseidon pipeline has been incorporated into a trilateral agreement signed by Greece, Cyprus and Israel for the EastMed pipeline. This pact was ratified in Greek Parliament last month.

Greece, Cyprus and Israel recognize the overland section of the Poseidon pipeline as a project of national significance.

Capacity of the Poseidon pipeline has been increased to 15 bcm from an original capacity of 8 bcm, while a further capacity boost to 20 bcm is planned.

 

Greece, Cyprus, Israel, with US, plan for EastMed meeting next month

The energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Israel plan to stage a trilateral meeting next month, with US involvement, for talks on the prospective EastMed gas pipeline, to transport gas from Israeli and Cypriot fields to Europe via Greece and Italy.

It remains uknown if Francis Fanon, the US Assistant Secretary of State and head of the country’s energy portfolio, will participate at this meeting.

It also remains unclear if participants will stage a virtual conference as a result of pandemic measures or meet in person.

The Greek, Cypriot and US governments were waiting for the new Israeli government to be sworn in before shaping plans for the EastMed meeting, to also serve as a second energy conference between the four nations following an inaugural session in Athens last August.

Yuval Steinitz has been reappointed at Israel’s top energy post, meaning the line-up of last year’s session between the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli energy ministers can be repeated at the next meeting. Greece’s Costis Hatzidakis and Cyprus’ Giorgos Lakkotrypis are still at their posts.

The Greek, Cypriot and Israeli government officials are expected to reaffirm the commitment of their respective countries to the EastMed gas pipeline, as well as commitment to cooperation for regional peace and prosperity, sources said.

Also, the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Israel, along with the session’s US representative, will seek to send Turkey a unified message on its provocative actions against Greece as well as increased aggression in the wider southeast Mediterranean region.

A trilateral EastMed gas pipeline agreement was approved in Greek Parliament last January.

Israel could soon reach a decision on the financing of some of the studies needed for the international pipeline’s link to the national grid.

Also, IGI Poseidon, a consortium comprising Greek gas utility DEPA and Italy’s Edison, is moving ahead with studies for the pipeline’s underwater and overland route between Greece and Italy. IGI Poseidon wants to make an investment decision on this project within the next two years. Meanwhile, Cyprus is making progress on licensing matters.

DEPA International Projects, EDEY, the hydrocarbon company, to merge

An amendment permitting a prospective merger between DEPA International Projects – a new entity resulting from a split at gas utility DEPA – and EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, is now being prepared at the energy ministry, energypress sources have informed.

A number of DEPA-related projects have been added to the DEPA International Projects portfolio, including the Greek-Italian IGI interconnection, EastMed and the Greek-Bulgarian IGB pipeline interconnection.

In addition, any future DEPA-related projects – directly or indirectly – concerning development, construction or management of interconnection infrastructure linking Greece with neighboring countries will also be added to the DEPA International Projects portfolio.

EDEY, the hydrocarbon project licensing authority in Greece, has assets of approximately 12.5 million euros. The company reported a post-tax profit of 4.3 million euros in 2019.

EDEY’s range of activities will be broadened as a result of the company’s merger with DEPA International Projects.

Special categorization for the new company that would exempt personnel remuneration packages and hiring policies from strict state monitoring is likely, sources noted.

The merger plan’s legal details could be attached to an energy ministry draft bill on environmental matters that is expected to be submitted to parliament following the Greek Easter break.

 

‘DEPA key to Greece’s leading Balkan role, energy diversification’

Greek gas utility DEPA chief executive Konstantinos Xifaras met earlier today with the U.S. Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt (photo), for a meeting focused on the recent energy-related developments in Southeast Europe as well as on the progress of significant projects in the wider region, currently under way or in design phase, such as the IGB pipeline, the Alexandroupoli FSRU and the EastMed pipeline, a project of strategic importance.

Following the meeting, Ambassador Pyatt remarked: “Greece is a leader in the Balkans in providing energy security and diversification of energy sources, and DEPA is key to its strategy. The U.S. therefore strongly supports DEPA’s participation in major projects that advance this strategy, particularly the Alexandroupoli FSRU, the IGB, TAP and potential EastMed pipeline, which are literally changing the energy map of Europe. These projects are critical for regional peace and security and will make Greece a regional energy hub.”

The DEPA chief commented: “We discussed, with the Ambassador, the course of significant energy projects currently under way in our region, in which DEPA has a leading role.  Over the past months, our company has striven to strengthen its position in the regional energy market, achieving notable cost reductions as well as expanding its activities in new sectors and products. At the same time, we remain focused on the double privatization [DEPA Trade, DEPA Infrastructure] and we are upgrading our participation in these international projects developing Greece into a regional energy hub, safeguarding, at the same time, the diversity of supply sources to the benefit of the country and consumers.”

 

Gas project financing limited by Brussels green energy policy

The government faces a major struggle to secure EU funding for prospective natural gas projects as a result of the European Commission’s green energy policy, seeking to restrict, even end, support for investments concerning fossil fuels.

The energy and environment ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou, speaking last Friday at a National Conference on Growth, warned that the EU Partnership Agreement for 2021 to 2027 excludes, to a great extent, natural gas infrastructure from European Structural and Investment Funds.

Greece has planned a series of major gas infrastructure projects, including the Alexandroupoli FSRU, or floating LNG terminal in the northeast, as well as an underground gas storage facility at a depleted gas field in offshore South Kavala.

As for the transboundary East Med gas pipeline, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis, in a newspaper article published yesterday, noted that the project’s EU funding prospects would be improved if the pipeline acquired a greener profile by carrying  hydrogen mixed with natural gas from Egypt and Israel to Europe.

A recent European Investment Bank decision ending financing for all fossil fuel-related projects, including natural gas projects, as of 2021, was eventually revised to offer limited financing access to projects included on the European Commission’s latest PCI list.

 

Greece looks to build on Italian East Med interest at Cairo event

Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis will be looking to build on yesterday’s interest expressed by Greek gas grid operator DESFA’s main shareholders – Snam, Enagas and Fluxys – in the planned East Med gas pipeline project, especially Italy’s Snam, when he meets with regional counterparts at the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum in Cairo, an event encouraging collaboration on gas trade in the region.

The energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are scheduled to participate at the Cairo event.

Snam chief executive Marco Alvera expressed particular interest in the East Med gas pipeline at a meeting yesterday involving Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the chiefs of the Italian company’s DESFA partners, Enagas and Fluxys.

Snam’s interest in the prospective East Med gas pipeline, to carry natural gas from Cypriot and Israeli fields to the EU via Italy, follows that of Energean and represents further investor confidence in the sustainability of the pipeline as it possesses commercial appeal for gas producers in the east Mediterranean as well as gas sales.

Participants at the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum are hoping the event is upgraded into a transboundary organization for gas cooperation. If an agreement on a forum charter is achieved, a signing ceremony will take place in Cairo tomorrow.

Besides participating at the forum, Hatzidakis, Greece’s energy minister, has also lined up meetings with his Cypriot, Israeli and Egyptian counterparts, Giorgos Lakkotrypis, Yuval Steinitz and Tarek el-Molla, respectively, for talks on the next steps needed to develop the East Med pipeline.

In addition, Hatzidakis will discuss prospective electricity grid interconnections between Greece and Egypt and also meet with Italy’s economic development minister Stefano Patuanelli, responsible for the country’s energy portfolio, who recently forwarded a letter of support for the East Med project to his Greek counterpart.

EIB funding extension for PCI gas projects crucial for Greece

The energy ministry’s leadership is hastening efforts to shape financing models for Greek PCI-classified natural gas projects as the European Investment Bank is expected to stop funding fossil-fuel projects beyond 2021.

The EIB had initially decided to stop funding all fossil fuel projects, including gas projects, as of 2020 before deciding to extend the period.

Greece, preparing major gas projects, had opposed the EIB decision. As part of this challenge, deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas held talks with the financial institution’s board of directors.

The revision now enables EIB funding for certain PCI-classified fossil fuel projects until the end of 2021. Thereafter, criteria will be applied to determine whether financial support can continue to be provided for projects on an individual basis.

Significant Greek natural gas projects are expected to be mature for financing and development around or beyond 2021.

The country is preparing to co-develop the East Med pipeline with Cyprus and Israel and also develop an FSRU in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece and an underground gas storage facility at a depleted natural gas field in the offshore South Kavala region.

The availability of EIB financing promises to prove crucial in determining the commercial viability of these projects.

 

 

East Med pipeline to upgrade geostrategic role of participants

The EastMed Pipeline Agreement, a trilateral deal signed by the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Israel in Athens yesterday with the leaders of all three countries in attendance, includes provisions for measures to protect and safeguard the pipeline project, sources have informed.

Other details in the agreement, fundamental to the region’s energy developments, include a regulatory and licensing framework facilitating the project’s development, common tax rules, as well as terms enabling the entry of new members and transmission of additional natural gas quantities from existing or new gas fields, including south of Crete, should any new deposits be discovered in the region.

The agreement upgrades the geostrategic roles of Greece and Cyprus and is a crowning achievement for the three-way cooperation established between the two countries and Israel, noted Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The 2,000-km pipeline is planned to carry between 10 to 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Europe via the three countries and Italy.

Addressing the heightened Turkish provocation of late, the Greek leader noted that the pipeline does not pose a threat for any side, adding regional cooperation is open for all provided rules of good neighborliness and international law are respected.

Following up on the recent commencement of production at the Leviathan gas field off the coast of Israel, the EastMed Pipeline Agreement establishes Israel as a key energy player in the region, stressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The project promises to offer major collective benefit for the three countries involved as well as the wider region, noted Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

Earlier yesterday, Greek gas utility DEPA and Energean Oil & Gas, active in the wider Mediterranean region, signed a Letter of Intent at the energy ministry through which DEPA will be able to purchase natural gas quantities from Energean, extracting at Israeli gas field licenses.

DEPA, in a company announcement, described the Letter of Intent as a major first step for the East Med project’s commercial viability.

Trilateral East Med agreement set to be signed in Athens today

The energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Israel are set to sign a trilateral agreement in Athens this afternoon for the development of East Med, a natural gas pipeline to carry gas to Europe via the three countries and Italy.

The pipeline, planned to measure 2,000 km and offer a capacity ranging between 10 to 20 billion cubic meters, promises to reinforce the Greek-Cypriot-Israeli alliance amid times of heightened Turkish provocation in the region.

Italian economic development minister Stefano Patuanelli, responsible for the country’s energy portfolio, has forwarded a letter of support for the project to Greek energy minister Costis Hatzidakis.

The Greek minister will sign the East Med agreement today with Giorgos Lakkotrypis and Yuval Steinitz, his Cypriot and Israeli counterparts, respectively. Italy is also expected to eventually join the partnership for this project.

Just hours before this signing ceremony, planned for 15:45, Greek gas utility DEPA and Energean Oil & Gas, active in the wider Mediterranean region, will sign a Letter of Intent at the energy ministry.

Importantly, this agreement promises to pave the way for a first commercial agreement reserving natural gas quantities ahead of the East Med pipeline’s construction, as DEPA will commit to purchasing natural gas quantities from Energean, extracting at Israeli gas field licenses. These quantities will represent approximately 20 percent of the East Med pipeline’s initial capacity.

The development prospects of East Med were recently propelled by a decision from IGI Poseidon, a 50-50 joint venture involving DEPA and Italy’s Edison, to accelerate the completion of all pending issues needed for the project’s maturity.

An upcoming East Med Gas Forum, to take place in Cairo January 15 and 16 with participation from the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, should help add further dimension to the alliance.

The East Med pipeline, planned as a complementary route to other projects in the wider region, stands as the most mature component of an EU plan entailing the development of an energy corridor to connect new energy sources in the east Mediterranean with European markets, including the southeast European market.

 

DEPA, pivotal for Greek energy plan, pushing ahead internationally

Through its strategic involvement in an array of pipeline and infrastructure projects, Greek gas utility DEPA is becoming a key driver of Greece’s geopolitical upgrade and the diversification of supply sources for the wider region of South-East Europe.

DEPA is establishing its position in the region through a series of significant international projects such as the acceleration of IGB pipeline construction, participation in the IGI Poseidon pipeline  interconnecting Greece and Italy, and, surely, booking capacity in TAP which, from 2020 onwards, will transport Caspian gas to Europe.

Developments around East Med Pipeline are also rapid, with the most recent being IGI Poseidon’s (the 50% – 50% JV between DEPA S.A. and Edison S.p.A ) BoD decision to fast-track the completion of all pending stages that will bring the project to maturity.  The €70 million Feasibility Study is being accelerated, along with every other stage, to complete the East Med pipeline’s design, which will also pave the way for the final investment decision.

All the above are just one part of DEPA’s multifaceted international activity. Prior to that, in October, a bilateral agreement was signed in Sofia for the start of IGB pipeline construction, a project overseen by ICGB AD, in which DEPA has a 25% stake.

The project is expected to go into operation in July 2021, with an initial capacity of 3 billion cubic meters. At first, the entire load of gas will come from TAP that will go into operation within 2020, delivering Azeri gas to European markets, in which DEPA has booked capacity of 1 billion cubic meters. Thus, through IGB, the company will supply the Bulgarian market with Caspian gas, “breaking” for the first time the existing Russian monopoly.

Another major development took place just yesterday, when the company’s Board of Directors approved the participation of DEPA, with a 20% stake, to the equity of GASTRADE, the company developing the FSRU project in Alexandroupolis.

The Terminal is complementary to the IGB pipeline and consists of an FSRU (Floating Storage Regasification Unit), anchored 10 km off the coastal area of ​​Alexandroupolis, with storage capacity up to 170,000 cubic meters of LNG and 22.7 million cubic meters daily regasification capacity, per day (8.3 billion m3 / year), as well as a 28 km long onshore and subsea pipeline system.

The international presence of the company is also enhanced by the Greek-Italian energy interconnection through the IGI Poseidon pipeline, as well as the CYNERGY program that “breaks” Cyprus energy isolation by establishing a natural gas supply chain in the country.

Apart from its participation in international projects, equally important are the company’s long-term supply contracts with Russian Gazprom, Turkish BOTAS, Algerian Sonatrach, IGSC (Azerbaijan) through the TAP pipeline, as well as the procurement of significant quantities of LNG through the global SPOT market, at competitive prices.

DEPA’s CEO, Konstantinos Xifaras, summed up the company’s international role:

“For thirty years, DEPA has been a leading player in the Balkan energy sector, as well as an integral part of the European strategy for energy diversification and security of supply both of Greece and Europe.

At the same time, by deploying multilayered energy diplomacy and participating in major international projects, DEPA establishes Greece as a regional energy hub and upgrades its economic and geo-strategic importance.”

DEPA’s footprint is solid in the domestic energy market as well, where it recently prevailed in a tender process for natural gas supply to PPC in 2020. The company acknowledged as one of the two bidders, with the ability to supply PPC with 2 million MWh.

IGI Poseidon in talks with Israeli firms for East Med agreements

The IGI Poseidon consortium, a 50-50 joint venture between Greek gas utility DEPA and Italy’s Edison, is engaged in talks with Israeli companies for direct and indirect involvement in its East Med gas pipeline project, planned to transport gas from Israeli and Cypriot fields to Europe via Greece and Italy.

DEPA and Edison are holding talks with Israel Natural Gas Lines Company, Israel’s gas grid operator, which could lead to a stake in the project for the latter, energypress sources have informed.

If these talks come to fruition, then the East Med project’s planned route, covering 2,000 km, will have made an import step towards actualization, securing gas transmission from the Levantine gas field, off the coast of Israel.

Besides its talks with Israel Natural Gas Lines Company, IGI Poseidon signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on December 2 with Tahal group member TMNG, a leading Israeli natural gas EPC company serving as a one-stop shop for natural gas and oil-related projects. This agreement concerns the development of an investment plan for exports of Israeli natural gas quantities to Europe.

However, much work is still needed before the aforementioned deals, or others, begin offering benefits, officials have stressed.

A period of at least two years will be needed before a finalized investment decision can be taken, according to the IGI Poseidon board, which recently approved funding worth 70 million euros for project-maturity studies.

 

DEPA, Edison firm on East Med amid Turkish provocation

Italy’s Edison, part of the Poseidon consortium formed with Greek gas utility DEPA for the development of the East Med gas pipeline – planned to transport natural gas from Israeli and Cypriot fields to the EU via Greece and Italy – has decided to accelerate pre-construction procedures following escalating provocation from Turkey, energypress has reported.

A decision was reached at a recent Poseidon meeting in Milan to assign all needed project studies, financially backed by the EU, within the next two months for swifter completion of preliminary procedures, and, by extension, the project itself, a 2,000-km pipeline.

Greece’s energy minister Costis Hatzidakis and his Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz reiterated their support for the project at a recent meeting.

Turkey, seeking to block the project, recently reached a maritime border agreement with Libya, which EU leaders are set to reject as invalid, insisting the pact interferes with the rights of other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Hristodoulidis has received reassurances from Israeli government officials that the country is not involved in talks with Ankara for the development of an alternative gas pipeline, according to a Cypriot newspaper report. Israel remains committed to the East Med plan, it added.

DEPA’s Poseidon stake will be transferred to the Greek gas utility’s division for international projects. DEPA is being split ahead of its upcoming privatization.

Italian energy firms eyeing array of local investments, PM in Italy

Italian investors are displaying widespread interest for energy investments in the Greek market, including possible stakes in distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, power grid operator IPTO, gas utility DEPA’s two new entities DEPA Trade and DEPA Infrastructure, as well as joint ventures in wind energy stations, electric vehicle projects and smart grids.

Deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas, joining Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on an official visit to Rome today, is expected to be informed of this Italian investment interest. Thomas is scheduled to meet with Italian economic development minister Stefano Patuanelli.

The Greek Prime Minister, to meet with his Italian counterpart Giuseppe Conte, can also expect to hear of this Italian investment interest during talks which, besides the refugee crisis, will also address cross-border energy projects such as TAP and East Med.

Snam maintains the most emblematic of Italian investments in the Greek market at present with a 66 percent stake in gas grid operator DESFA, including control of the country’s natural gas transmission and storage infrastructure.

Italian firms are regarded as pioneers in a number of green-energy domains, including smart grids, electric vehicle recharging station installations along highways, even wave power projects.

Just days ago, a consortium comprising Eni, Fincantieri and Terna announced it would commercially develop its pilot project Inertial Sea Wave Energy Converter (ISWEC) for wave energy generation, initially at small Italian islands, followed by projects abroad.

The Greek Prime Minister and his energy deputy will also meet with Italian entrepreneurs, including Eni gas e luce chief executive Alberto Chiarini.

Italy’s Terna, one of Europe’s biggest transmission system operators, is believed to be interested in acquiring a stake of IPTO and its Ariadne subsidiary, project promoter of the submarine Crete-Athens grid interconnection.

Enel is considering moves into networks, renewable energy investments and the electric vehicles sector.

Italgas, Italy’s biggest gas distributor and the continent’s third biggest, appears interested in DEPA Infrastructure. Italgas is believed to have reached a preliminary agreement to acquire fellow Italian company Eni gas e luce’s 49 percent stake and management rights in EDA Thess, covering the Thessaloniki and Thessaly areas.

Eni, increasing its involvement in pioneering projects, including wave energy, is believed to be looking to increase its Greek market presence, possibly through acquisitions.

 

 

Greek, Cypriot, Israeli officials seeking Italy’s East Med return

Greek, Cypriot and Israeli officials are working on details of a plan aiming to win back Rome’s support for the East Med pipeline, an ambitious 1,900-km pipeline to carry southeast Mediterranean natural gas from Israel to Europe via  Italy.

Efforts by Washington and Brussels to lure back Italy, whose coalition government has withdrawn the country’s support for the project, are pivotal.

Part of the overall diplomatic effort may be unveiled at an Athens energy summit today.

The Greek, Cypriot and Israeli energy ministers, Costis Hatzidakis, Giorgos Lakkotrypis and Yuval Steinitz, respectively, as well as US Assistant Secretary Francis Fannon, are taking part in the summit.

Fannon held successive meetings in Athens yesterday with Greece’s energy minister and the deputy foreign minister Konstantinos Fragogiannis. The East Med project’s promotion was a key subject of these meetings, especially Fannon’s talks with Hatzidakis, Greece’s energy minister.

Last May, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, heading Italy’s right-wing populist coalition, declared Rome does not want the East Med pipeline to land on Italian territory. Instead, he proposed the pipeline’s link to TAP, another gas pipeline project being developed to carry Azerbaijani natural gas to Europe, via Italy.

East Med is envisioned to primarily carry deposits from Cyprus’ recently discovered “Aphrodite” gas field and the Israeli-controlled block “Leviathan” along a route stretching from Israel to Europe, also via Italy.

In response to Italy’s stance, Israel now appears to favor an alternate route for East Med that would avoid ending up on the Italian coast. Experts regard this prospect as difficult but not impossible as the pipeline project is still at the planning stage. Greece and Cyprus prefer Italy’s incorporation into the pipeline route.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

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.

Serbia discussed as Italy alternative for East Med project

An alternative route, replacing Italy with Serbia, for the ambitious 5 billion-euro East Med natural gas pipeline, planned to carry southeast Mediterranean natural gas deposits to the EU via Greece, was discussed at a five-way meeting in Thessaloniki last Friday between leading energy-sector officials representing Greece, Israel, Bulgaria, Serbia and the US.

The meeting’s participants expressed concern over the new Italian coalition’s unfavorable view of such projects. In June, the Italian coalition described as “pointless” the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project, the final stage of a bigger project – the Southern Gas Corridor – that will take Azeri gas to western Europe. Intended to diversify Europe’s natural gas sources and lessen the reliance on Russia, the TAP project represents the cornerstone of the EU’s energy security policy.

An extremely complex 1,900-km project whose greatest part would run underwater, East Med is planned to conclude in Italy. It is being supported by the EU as a PCI- status project.

Serbia’s mining and energy minister Aleksandar Antic, one of the five participants at the Thessaloniki meeting, held within the framework of the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair, is believed to have embraced the plan for an alternative East Med route that would include his country – should Italy not clarify its position.

 

Israeli gas grid operator considering East Med entry

The participation of Israel’s natural gas grid operator, the Natural Gas Lines Company, in the development of the East Med pipeline, planned to carry southeast Mediterranean natural gas deposits along a route stretching from Israel to Europe, is being examined by the Israeli government, energy minister Yuval Steinitz has revealed.

Established in 2003, the Israeli gas grid operator, wholly owned by the Israeli State, holds a 30-year license for development and management of the country’s natural gas network.

In comments offered to Israeli financial daily Globes, Steinitz, highlighting the important role played by the Natural Gas Lines Company in the domestic natural gas market’s growth, noted that the participation of a state-controlled Israeli firm in the East Med pipeline project would offer further impetus to its development.

The prospective pipeline has already received political support from the governments of Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Italy, as was made clear at a four-way meeting in December, staged for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.

The Globes article on the East Med project made reference to the gas pipeline’s technical challenges, which exist mainly because of the deep seas between Cyprus and Crete, an area where waters run close to 3.3 kilometers deep.

Subdued natural gas prices at present have also raised questions about the project’s feasibility. The price gap between regional and European markets will need to be between 1 and 2 dollars per mmBtu, currently not the case, if East Med’s feasibility is to be ensured.

However, this could change with the involvement of Greek firm Energean Oil & Gas, now a player in Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with licenses to the Karish and Tanin Fields, offshore Israel. Energean recently acquired further hydrocarbon exploration rights in another Israeli tender.

Less than two months ago, Energean Oil & Gas signed a series of natural gas sales agreements with Israeli gas retailers, offering price levels of less than 4 dollars per mmBtu, well below the price of Russian gas being sold to Europe, ranging between 6 and 7 dollars per mmBtu. This discrepancy is good news for the East Med pipeline’s prospects. Other players may follow Energean with similar price levels.

Utilization of recently discovered natural gas deposits in the wider area, such as Cyprus’s “Aphrodite” gas field and the Israeli-controlled block “Leviathan”, is in jeopardy as a result of the inability, so far, of governments and energy companies to establish export solutions.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Cyprus taking on East Med investment, operational costs

Cyprus willl take on investment and operational costs that may arise for East Med, a prospective pipeline to carry southeast Mediterranean natural gas deposits along a route stretching from Israel to Europe, RAE, Greece’s Regulatory Authority for Energy, and RAEK, its Cypriot counterpart, have agreed.

Both authorities also agreed that the division of the project’s overall cost is substantiated, making conditions mature for the project’s development to commence.

IGI Poseidon, a 50-50 joint venture comprised of DEPA, Greece’s Public Gas Corporation, and Italy’s Edison, is promoting the East Med pipeline.

At present, preliminary deep-sea survey work is being planned around Cyprus and Crete to determine the pipeline’s route.

Then, the next step, scheduled for December, will entail a four-way meeting to bring together the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Italy for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.

The East Med pipeline is planned to cover about 1,900 kilometers and connect east Mediterranean deposits with western Greece via Cyprus, Crete and the Peloponnese.

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. Studies conducted so far indicate the project’s construction cost could reach 6 billion euros.

Officials plan to utilize prospective interconnections towards Bulgaria (IGB), Albania (IAP) and Italy (ITGI).

East Med was classified as a Project of Common Interest (PCI) by the EU in 2013, a decision that facilitates EU funding, while an EU-financed feasibility study was completed last year.

 

 

 

 

Four-way East Med agreement set to be signed tomorrow

Greek, Italian, Cypriot and Israeli officials are scheduled to sign a Memorandum of Cooperation in Rome tomorrow as a further step in the long road leading to the development of East Med, a 6.2 billion-euro project designed to transmit natural gas along a route stretching from Israel to Europe.

Greece will be represented by the energy ministry’s secretary general Mihalis Veriopoulos at the meeting, to be staged as a prelude to an Intergovernmental Agreement for the pipeline project expected to be signed in Cyprus at the end of this year. The Cyprus agreement, which will also include Italian representation, will be a crucial step for the project’s investment prospects.

In the lead up to tomorrow’s  memorandum, Greece Cyprus and Israel had signed a joint declaration on June 15 in recognition of the significant progress made with preliminary technical and financial plans concerning the East Med project.

The energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed the declaration in June as part of a summit meeting at which the heads of state of all three countries made commitments to develop the project.

The East Med pipeline is planned to cover 1,900 kilometers underwater at a depth of as much as three kilometers and transfer approximately 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas, annually, from deposits in the southeast Mediterranean towards Europe.

The project is receiving full support from the European Commission as it represents a new natural gas supply source that promises to reduce Europe’s major energy reliance on Russia.

East Med pipeline will meet all prerequisites, Canete supports

European governments and the Israeli administration today pledged full support for the development of the East Med project, designed to transmit natural gas along a route stretching from Israel to Europe.

An objective has been set for the pipeline infrastructure project to be ready by 2025. The East Med project is planned to measure some 2,000 km and connect Israeli and Cypriot natural gas deposits with Greece and possibly Italy. The project’s budget could reach as much as 6 billion euros.

“This is an ambitious project that is clearly supported by the European Commission as it carries tremendous value with regards to supply security and the objective for diversification,” noted the European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Canete.

Following a meeting with the energy ministers of Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Italy, Canete told reporters he believes the East Med project will meet all prerequisites to enable financial commitment.

Israel’s energy minister Yuval Steinitz noted that the pipeline project could be ready by 2025. “But we will try to speed up and shorten this timeline,” Steinitz informed. Asked about Israel’s energy plans, Steinitz responded: “I will develop both pipelines,” referring to East Med and an Israeli-Turkish pipeline.

Elio Ruggeri, CEO of IGI Poseidon, the owner of the East Med project, told Reuters that, according to the current budget, the project is estimated to cost 5 billion euros to reach Greece’s gas network and 6 billion euros to reach the Italian system.

IGI Poseidon is a joint venture formed by DEPA, Greece’s Public Gas Corporation, and Italian energy group Edison.

The energy ministers of all East Med project participants said they plan to meet in Cyprus six months from now to discuss the pipeline’s further development.

 

 

 

 

Greek-Israeli-US naval exercise in area of major energy interest

A trilateral naval exercise between the Greek, Israeli and American navies, dubbed Noble Dina, is planned to begin later this month with nearly a dozen surface ships, submarines and related air assets to engage in joint reconnaissance, counterterror and antisubmarine warfare training.

The exercise will be staged in an area that has produced major hydrocarbon discoveries in recent times and already led to major investments. Two major energy infrastructure projects of Greek interest, the East Med gas pipeline, to link Greece, Israel and Cyprus all the way to the Italian coast, and the Eurasia Interconnector, planned to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids, will be developed in a wider area to serve as part of the arena for the upcoming naval exercise.

Cyprus will participate as an observer in the three-way drill, which is staged annually. It begins in Greece and will conclude in mid-April at the Israeli Navy headquarters in Haifa.

“It’s one of our most important exercises that allows us to hone our proficiencies in very complex scenarios,” Commander Assaf Boneh, the head of international cooperation for the Israeli sea service, told Defense News. “We’ll be training in a vast area from Greece to Israel, and this gives us a lot of room to practice multiple scenarios that require jointness.”

Officials meet in Brussels ahead of East Med ministers meeting

A further step towards the prospective East Med pipeline project’s development is expected to be made today when highly ranked Greek, Cypriot, Israeli and Italian officials meet in Brussels for a meeting on the infrastructure plan to link the European market with major Israeli and Cypriot natural gas deposits.

The four countries will be represented at energy ministry secretary general and management levels. Greece will be represented by the energy ministry’s secretary general Mihalis Veriopoulos.

Financial and technical details concerning the pipeline project will be discussed, while the ground will also be prepared for an imminent meeting between the energy ministers of all four nations on the matter. It is being planned to take place in Israel next month.

There has been much talk as to whether the pipeline project is sustainable or not. If developed, the pipeline, to link Israel, Cyprus and Greece all the way to the Italian coast, will rank as the world’s biggest underwater pipeline project.

A plan presented to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy by prospective project contributor IGI Poseidon, a 50-50 DEPA (Public Gas Corporation) and Edison venture, put the project’s cost at approximately 5.7 billion dollars. This amount, considerably less than the initially anticipated amount, is expected to make the project technically and commercially viable.

The focus is now turning to details concerning EU funding, expected to cover a significant part of the project’s cost, and developing the pipeline according to schedule, the aim being to launch its operations in 2021.

 

DEPA’s East Med pipeline plan receiving Israeli, US support

The development prospects of the East Med underwater natural gas pipeline being promoted by DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, as a plan to trasnsmit gas from the east Mediterranean to European market, are being propelled by Israeli and US support.

Commenting about a forthnight ago, Israel’s national infrastructure, energy and water resources minister Yuval Steinitz noted the project could serve as a main natural gas supply channel if the current signs of substantial deposits in areas controlled by Egypt, Cyprus and Israel are proven.

The recent establishment of talks between DEPA and US oil company Noble Energy, which led to the signing of a memorandum of cooperation in June, reflects the US interest in the development of the underwater project, a key part of energy relations linking Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

Noble Energy is the biggest company active in the development and exploitation of deposits in the east Mediterranean. The US energy company holds stakes in an offshore block within Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as well as a major Israeli-conttrolled block, Leviathan.

The developing ties between DEPA and Noble Energy have been propelled by encouraging results produced by two different studies conducted on the pipeline’s technical and financial sustainability.

Until recently, Noble Energy had maintained a reserved stance on the plan to construct an underwater gas pipeline, preferring LNG solutions instead for the export of gas from the Cypriot and Israeli deposits. The US company now appears more open to alternatives.

Greek, Cypriot and Israeli officials are scheduled to meet during the current month in Athens, at the European Commission’s local headquarters, to examine the results of preliminary technical and economic studies conducted on the East Med pipeline. Participants will seek to pave the way for more advanced talks at a summit meeting in Israel this December to involve the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Israel, as well as the European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel, Arias Canete.

 

 

East Med project feasible, IGI Poseidon chief tells conference

Elio Ruggeri, CEO of IGI Poseidon, has stressed the importance for southeast Europe of the East Med pipeline, a project to link Greece with major natural gas deposits in Cypriot and Israeli territorial waters, in a speech delivered at an Economist conference in Athens.

Ruggeri noted that the IGI Poseidon consortium is contributing to the effort to develop a natural gas corridor of multiple uses in the wider region, which will include Russian gas, the most important aspect.

“We are making an effort with Gazprom and, by the end of the year, will know whether the idea will lead to some sort of initiative,” Ruggeri remarked.

Ruggeri added that IGI Poseidon will seek to bring East Mediterranean natural gas to Europe via the East Med pipeline, adding that the project is technically and economically feasible. “There were doubts in the past. We examined the technical and economic sustainability through studies conducted by a leading research firm. This study was completed and showed that the project is technically feasible. Without a doubt, the project can be constructed. The project is also economically sustainable,” Ruggeri noted.

He also said that major potential exists for further natural gas discoveries in the East Mediterranean. “This could mean a new Norway. The region wil require many export solutions. Production and export must be co-developed,” he noted.

Poseidon reaches agreement with Noble for East Med preliminary work

Athens-based Poseidon SA, a 50-50 joint venture involving DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, and Edison, has signed an agreement with Noble Energy International Ltd to finalize preliminary procedures for the East Med pipeline ahead of the project’s Front End Engineering Design (FEED) stage. As part of the agreement, Noble will also conduct a sustainability study for the prospective pipleline, to carry natural gas exports from major deposits discovered in the East Mediterranean region.

The East Med pipeline has been designated as a Project of Common Interest (PCI) and is supported by the EU through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), a co-funding program.

The East Med project received two million euros in 2015 through the CEF program to fund activies preceding the FEED stage.

Poseidon is involved in the development of three major natural gas pipeline projects, the Poseidon pipeline, a submarine passage linking northwestern Greece with Italy’s south, the IGB, to interconnect northeastern Greece with southern Bulgaria, and the East Med, planned to run from Cyprus to Greece’s northwest via Crete.

The East Med project, including submarine and overland segments, will cover a distance of roughly 1,900 kilometers. It is being planned to carry as many as 16 billion cubic meters of natural gas per yer (bcm/y) from major Levantine Sea deposits located in Cypriot and Israeli territorial waters. The East Med pipeline may also carry possible natural gas deposits in Greek territory.

East Med, combined with the Poseidon and IGB projects, will be able to supply natural gas to Italy and other countries in Europe’s southeast.