Electricity producer tax for windfall profits in parliament

A draft bill proposing an extraordinary 90 percent tax on windfall profits earned by electricity producers – primarily operators of natural gas-fueled power stations – as a result of sharply higher natural gas prices over the past nine-month period, has been submitted to parliament for discussion and ratification following talks on the matter between the finance and energy ministries.

The draft bill is planned to legislate this extraordinary tax as well as a formula to be used for calculating respective company amounts to be taxed.

Discounts offered by companies to customers will be reduced from sums to be taxed, along with any returns resulting from bilateral contracts.

Once the draft bill is legislated, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, will calculate amounts for each company to be subject to the extraordinary tax.

According to a related report prepared by RAE and delivered to the government and parliament, power utility PPC represents 729.91 million euros of the market’s total of 927.44 million euros in windfall profits amassed over a six-month period between October, 2021 and March, 2022.

The country’s independent producers, Mytilineos, Elpedison and Heron, along with RES producers participating in the market, represent the remaining 197.53 million euros in windfall profits, the RAE report determined.

Key energy infrastructure included in new recovery fund

The government, intending to make the most of its favourable geographic location for diversified natural gas supply in the wider region, plans to seek EU funding support, through the REPowerEU package, for a series of natural gas and electricity grid projects awaiting development.

These projects are planned to be included in the country’s revised EU Recovery and Resilience Facility, to be submitted to by the government to the European Commission by early July.

The investments will aim to end Greece’s reliance on Russian energy sources by 2027, as planned by the REPowerEU package.

Besides the addition of natural gas infrastructure, absent from Greece’s existing recovery plan as a result of the European Commission’s unfavorable view on funding support for projects concerning natural gas, seen as a transitional energy source towards zero emissions, the country’s revised plan will also seek to incorporate electricity transmission projects that will contribute to the reinforcement of renewable energy sources in Europe’s energy mix.

The government is believed to have already prepared its catalogue of electricity and natural gas infrastructure project proposals to seek funding through the REPowerEU initiative.

An electricity grid interconnection project to link the Greek and Egyptian systems and transmit green energy, exclusively, to Greece and the EU has been included in the Greek catalogue, sources informed.

An additional central gas pipeline, to run 650 km from Komotini, northeastern Greece, to Elefsina’s Patima area, west of Athens, has also been included in the Greek catalogue, following a request by DESFA, the gas grid operator.

PM discusses Greek regional gas supply prospects in talks with US president

The crucial role to be played by northeastern Greece’s prospective Alexandroupoli FSRU as a project that promises to help reduce and eliminate the reliance of the Balkans and, by extension, east Europe on Russian gas was stressed during talks between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and US president Joe Biden in Washington yesterday.

The Greek leader, who stressed that the Alexandroupoli FSRU will be installed at a port just 500 km from the Ukraine border, added the facility, discussed extensively between the two leaders, will play a pivotal role in Europe’s decision to end its reliance on Russian gas.

Mitsotakis also discussed Greece’s ambitious yet not unattainable objective of becoming an energy hub in the Balkans, as a first step, as well as a key player in eastern Europe.

Three prospective LNG terminals – Alexandroupoli FSRU I and II, as well as Dioryga Gas, close to Korinthos, west of Athens – combined with the existing LNG terminal on the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens, that will soon acquire a fourth storage unit, could elevate Greece’s regional role as a main gas supplier in the Balkans and eastern Europe.

 

 

 

Russian gas payments by Greek companies due next few days

Greek companies that have imported Russian natural gas supplied by Gazprom and face installment payment deadlines expiring between May 20 and 25 are expected to accept Moscow’s ruble-currency demands as part of a wider EU approach that still remains unclear.

Even so, the European Commission, appearing set to revise EU directives concerning payment procedures by member states for Russian gas, is believed to be adjusting to Moscow’s ruble-currency demands.

Greek companies that have imported Russian gas believe the dispute will soon be resolved and are awaiting EU directives and related signals from the Greek government before proceeding with installment payments, sources informed.

The Greek government and the country’s energy players are continuing to observe emergency plans as energy supply security remains a threat as long as Russia’s war on Ukraine continues.

 

 

Brussels crisis plan presented to EU leaders next week

The European Commission will present a short-term intervention plan for the electricity and natural gas markets at a council meeting of EU leaders next week, the validity of the measures to run through next winter, until May 1, 2023, according to sources.

It remains unclear if this set of measures, intended to subdue exorbitant energy prices, has been finalized or will undergo revisions.

The package is believed to contain new measures as well as older ones that have already been discussed at national and European level.

The plan includes an initiative for the establishment of an EU Energy Platform, whose aim will be to ensure energy supply at fair prices as well as greatly reduced, even eliminated, reliance on Russian natural gas.

EU member states will be given a specific period of time to regulate prices in the retail gas market. Emergency cash-flow measures offering relief to traders will also be made available.

Electricity market measures are expected to include taxation or regulation of excess earnings, energy price regulation in the retail market, as well as price regulation for small and medium-sized enterprises.

 

 

Biomethane a priority for DESFA, pilot project in the making

Gas grid operator DESFA, placing biomethane interests among its priorities, intends to forward a related proposal to the energy ministry by the end of June as part of ongoing consultation for regulatory framework revisions that will enable the Greek market to incorporate biomethane as a new commercial activity.

DESFA, supported by consultants, is preparing a related study on amendments needed to existing laws – covering domains such as environmental and building matters – for the development of a biomethane market in Greece.

Biomethane could replace natural gas for the operation of a compressor station in Thessaloniki’s Nea Mesimvria area and another in Abelia, Thessaly, central Greece, now being developed.

Both locations are situated close to areas offering considerable waste quantities, which makes biomethane projects viable solutions that will significantly limit DESFA’s environmental footprint.

The biggest part of DESFA’s transmission network is relatively new and could, as is, or with minor revisions, host green gases, namely biomethane and hydrogen. New network sections now being developed would be ready to transmit green gases from the start.

DESFA is currently holding preliminary talks with market players for possible partnerships in a pilot biomethane project. However, the operator intends to finalize its biomethane business plan before deciding on any partnerships.

 

Energean plc announces Athena gas discovery, offshore Israel

London, 9 May 2022 – Energean plc (LSE: ENOG, TASE: אנאג) has announced a commercial gas discovery by the Athena exploration well, offshore Israel.

Highlights

  • Commercial discovery made by the Athena exploration well, Block 12, in the A, B and C sands. Preliminary analysis indicates that the Athena discovery contains recoverable gas volumes of 8 bcm (283 bcf / (51 mmboe) on a standalone basis.
  • This discovery is particularly significant as it de-risks an additional 50 bcm (1.8 tcf / (321 mmboe) of mean unrisked prospective resources across Energean’s Olympus Area (total 58 bcm / 372 mmboe including Athena).
    • The Olympus Area is Energean’s newly defined area which includes Athena, plus the undrilled prospects on Block 12 and the adjacent Tanin Lease.
  • Athena can be commercialised in the near-term via tie-back to the Energean Power FPSO, enhancing the profitability of the Karish-Tanin development. Alternatively, it could form part of a new Olympus Area development.
  • Energean is therefore actively pursuing development options for the commercialisation of the wider Olympus Area, (potentially including Athena), such as:
    • Further domestic Israeli gas sales:
      • New Gas Sales and Purchase Agreements (“GSPA”) underpinned by the continued growth of the Israeli power market
      • Spot sales
    • Export options:
      • Developing the Memorandum of Understanding (“MoU”) signed with The Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (“EGAS”) for the supply of up to 3 Bcm/yr into a binding agreement
      • Exports to other regional and European markets via pipeline and LNG via Cyprus and/or Egypt
  • The economics of gas produced and sold from Block 12 are not subject to royalties payable to the original sellers of the Karish and Tanin leases, leading to an approximate 8% increase in revenue for the same volumes sold, when compared with the Karish and Tanin discoveries

Mathios Rigas, Chief Executive of Energean, commented: 

“We are delighted to announce this new gas discovery at Athena and the potential of the wider Olympus Area. We are considering a range of strategic commercialisation options both for a standalone and wider Olympus Area development, including domestic and multiple export routes.

“This discovery and the broader de-risking of a number of prospects in the Olympus Area reaffirms the role of the East Mediterranean as a global gas exploration hotspot. It strengthens our commitment to provide competition and security of supply to the region, enables the optimisation of our Israel portfolio and fulfils one of our key milestones for 2022.”

Athena Gas Discovery

Athena Well Results

The Athena exploration well was drilled on Block 12 (Energean Israel, 100%), located 20 kilometres from Karish and 20 kilometres from Tanin A, in a water depth of 1,769 metres. It was drilled in 51 days and came in below the budget of $35 million. The Athena exploration well is the fifth well in a row that has been drilled successfully by Energean in Israel.

A gross hydrocarbon column of 156 metres was encountered in the primary target (the A, B and C sands). Preliminary analysis indicates that the Athena discovery contains recoverable gas volumes of 8 bcm (283 bcf / (51 mmboe) on a standalone basis. Additional analysis will now be undertaken to further refine the full resource potential (including volumes contained within thinner sands between the main reservoir units) and to confirm the liquids content of the discovery.

The Athena well has been suspended as a future production well.

Commercial hydrocarbons were not discovered in the deeper secondary target (22% Probability of Success, D sands).

Multiple Commercialisation Options Under Consideration

Athena can be commercialised in the near-term via tie-back to the Energean Power FPSO, enhancing the profitability of the Karish-Tanin development. Alternatively, it could form part of a new development called the Olympus Area.

Energean’s Olympus Area consists of Block 12 and the prospects on the Tanin lease. The discoveries and prospects in this area lie along the same geological trend and Athena was drilled on the same direct hydrocarbon indicator (shown in the seismic analysis) as Tanin. As such, Energean is confident that the Athena discovery has de-risked the A, B and C sands in the remaining prospects of the Olympus Area, estimated to be 50 bcm (1.8 tcf / (321 mmboe) of mean unrisked prospective resources (total 58 bcm / 372 mmboe including Athena). This estimate excludes the liquids component as well as any gas upside in the thinner sands between the main reservoir units.

Energean has identified multiple commercialisation options for the Athena discovery and potential future Olympus Area development, including both domestic customers and export routes. These options include:

  • Further domestic Israeli gas sales:
    • New GSPAs underpinned by the continued growth of the Israeli power market
    • Spot sales (spot contract signed with the Israel Electric Corporation (“IEC”) in March 2022)
  • Export options:
    • Developing the MoU signed with EGAS into a binding agreement. The MoU was signed in December 2021 for the sale and purchase of up to 3 bcm/yr of natural gas on average for a period of 10 years, commencing with initial volumes of up to 1 bcm/yr.
    • Exports to other regional and European markets via pipeline and LNG via Cyprus and/or Egypt

Block 12 (including Athena) benefits from an absence of any seller royalties on production or constraint on export from the lease, improving the economics versus the Karish and Tanin leases.

Remaining Drilling Campaign

The Stena IceMAX has now moved to the Karish Main-04 appraisal well, of which the top hole has already been drilled. The rig will then complete the Karish North development well. A decision on whether to drill the previously communicated optional wells (Hermes and/or Hercules) is expected to be made by the end of Q2 2022.

 

Alexandroupoli FSRU development launch today, pivotal project

Development of the Alexandroupoli FSRU in Greece’s northeast, a project promising to boost energy security by broadening energy source diversification for Greece and the wider Balkan region, is scheduled to officially commence today.

The prime ministers of Greece and Bulgaria, as well as Serbia’s president, will attend today’s official ceremony. The leaders will highlight the need for energy source diversification in the Balkans and reduced reliance on Russian natural gas.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU promises to establish Greece as a gas hub for transportation of LNG into the EU.

Natural gas consumption in southeast Europe totals between 10 and 11 bcm annually, half this amount provided by Russia.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU, expected to be ready to operate by the end of 2023, is planned to offer a capacity of approximately 5.5 bcm, greatly diversifying gas supply to southeast Europe.

The project is budgeted at 380 million euros, of which 166.7 million euros will be provided through the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).

The Alexandroupoli FSRU will be linked with Greece’s gas grid via a 28-km pipeline, enabling gas supply to Greece, Bulgaria and the wider region, including Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia, Moldavia and Ukraine.

 

Energean Israel signs new Gas Sales and Purchase Agreement

London, 3 May 2022 – Energean plc (LSE: ENOG, TASE: אנאג) is pleased to announce that Energean Israel has signed a new Gas Sales and Purchase Agreement (“GSPA“) for up to 0.8 bcm/yr.

Mathios Rigas, Chief Executive of Energean, commented:

“We are delighted to have signed a new GSPA of up to 0.8 bcm/yr for our flagship assets in Israel, delivering on one of our key milestones for 2022. This is the third in a row for us from the Israel Electric Corporation (“IEC“) power plant privatisation programme and I want to thank Edeltech and Shikun & Binui Energy for their continued trust and confidence. I’m pleased to also confirm that the Energean Power FPSO has sailed-away and we look forward to delivering first gas from Karish, which remains on track for Q3 this year.”

East Hagit Power Plant Limited Partnership commented:

“This is another important step in the completion of the East Hagit acquisition, and a further stage of the joint process by Edeltech and Shikun & Binui Energy to increase competition and efficiency of the electricity market, for the benefit of Israeli consumers.”

New GSPA signed with the East Hagit Power Plant Limited Partnership

Energean has signed a new GSPA, representing up to 0.8 Bcm/yr, to supply gas to the East Hagit Power Plant Limited Partnership (“EH Partnership“), a partnership between the Edeltech Group and Shikun & Binui Energy. EH Partnership was the winning bidder in the IEC East Hagit tender process, the third IEC power plant in the current series of four to be privatised. Energean is also a supplier of gas to Ramat Hovav and Alon Tavor, the first two power stations privatised in the series.

The GSPA is for a term of approximately 15 years, for a total contract quantity of up to 12 bcm.  The contract contains provisions regarding floor pricing, offtake exclusivity and a price indexation mechanism (not Brent price linked). The GSPA has been signed at levels that are in line with the other large, long-term contracts within Energean’s portfolio. The agreement has the potential to generate revenues of up to $2 billion over the offtake period and is subject only to buyers’ completion of the privatisation process, including lenders’ consent.

Combined with the spot sales agreement signed in March 2022 with IEC, the agreements have enhanced Energean’s gas sales portfolio towards filling the 8 bcm/yr of capacity on the Energean Power FPSO.

Operational update – Karish Project

The Energean Power FPSO has sailed-away from Singapore and Energean remains on track to deliver first gas from Karish in Q3 2022.

 

 

Unclear EU stance on Moscow’s ruble payment demand for gas

The European Commission appears to be deliberately maintaining an unclear stance on Moscow’s demand for natural gas supply payments in the ruble currency, an in-between position that presently enables European companies to abide by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s related decree without breaching EU sanctions imposed on Russia.

Yesterday’s EU council meeting of energy ministers for a common European stance on Russia’s ruble-currency payment demand for Gazprom natural gas failed to produce an agreement, instead maintaining the ambiguity that has hovered in recent weeks.

European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson reiterated that payments for Russian natural gas in the ruble currency would represent a violation of European sanctions on Russia, and, as a result would not be accepted. However, she did not offer specific advice on how European companies should make their payments for Russian natural gas when the next round of payments are due. Simson ascertained that clearer directions would soon be issued, without specifying when.

Italian minister for Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani has allegedly supported that European companies must be given the ability, at least temporarily, to conform to Russia’s payment demands, according to a Politico report.

However, the Italian government has denied that Rome is preparing to make ruble-currency gas payments to Russia, describing the Politico reports as misleading.

 

 

 

REPower EU plan overambitious, ‘an objective, not a specific strategy’

The European Commission’s REPower EU transition plan, aiming to greatly reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian gas, is overambitious and should be regarded as an objective rather than a set of specific measures, officials taking part in the recent annual Gas Infrastructure Europe conference, an authoritative sector event, have concluded.

The calculations offered by the REPower EU plan are incorrect, Torben Brabo, GIE’s president, has told the Euractive agency, adding that a closer look at the figures concerning Russian natural gas supply, LNG supply, as well as biomethane projections, renders the European plan as overambitious.

LNG availability and purchase projections in the REPower EU plan are possibly too high, the GIE president stressed.

Officials linked with LNG infrastructure told the GIE conference that the LNG market’s actual conditions will prevent the EU plan’s lofty targets from being achieved. Anything beyond 50 percent of the target set will be difficult to attain, these officials contended.

American current gas liquefaction capacity does not suffice for supply of an additional 15 bcm of LNG to Europe, as specified in the EU plan, officials taking part in the GIE conference contended.

Qatar and other LNG exporters in the Middle East have already committed amounts to non-EU buyers, while the REPower EU plan’s 35-bcm biomethane objective appears to be too optimistic, they added.

 

 

 

 

Athens awaiting EU outcome for Gazprom payment stance

The Greek government’s stance regarding Moscow’s demands for ruble-currency payments to Gazprom for natural gas supply will depend on decisions to be taken by fellow EU members, government officials have told energypress.

Athens is expected to push for greater clarity on the matter and a common European stance on the issue at an emergency meeting of EU energy ministers called by the French EU presidency for next Monday.

An imminent payment expected to be made by German company Uniper will be pivotal in decisions to be made by EU member states on Moscow’s ruble-currency payment demand for Russian gas supply.

According to German media, Uniper intends to make a euro-currency payment to Gazprom, but, rather than make the payment to a European bank, as the company has done until now, it will instead transfer the related amount to Russia’s Gazprombank, not on the sanctions list.

As has been widely reported, Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered countries deemed as adversaries to make gas payments through a specific procedure involving two Gazprombank accounts, a foreign-currency account and a ruble-currency account. Gazprombank will convert foreign-currency sums to rubles before transferring the resulting amounts to parent company Gazprom.

Four Revythoussa FSU offers made, 6-month lease for start

Four companies have expressed non-binding interest in a procedure seeking FSU offers, both through lease and sale arrangements, for gas grid operator DESFA’s LNG terminal on the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens.

The Revythoussa plan entails adding an FSU with a capacity of between 150,000 and 174,000 m3 to the LNG terminal, which would increase the facility’s current 225,000 m3 capacity, provided by three existing onshore storage units, to at least 375,000 m3, an increase of approximately 70 percent.

Local authorities were satisfied with the level of interest expressed by participants in the first-round procedure, staged to gauge the market for FSU availability. The procedure was staged with guidance from international broker SSY Gas.

A six-month lease solution for an FSU is now considered certain as an initial plan as RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, keeps assessing market data to decide whether an FSU lease or purchase solution is best for Revythoussa over the longer term.

A follow-up tender inviting interested parties to submit binding bids will be staged as soon as RAE has reached its decision.

According to the plan’s schedule, a follow-up tender is planned for the first half of May. Officials aim to have an FSU moored at Revythoussa by the end of July.

 

Alexandroupoli FSRU project development launch on May 3

Development of the Alexandroupoli FSRU, in Greece’s northeast, a project promising to boost energy security and widen energy source diversification in Greece and the wider Balkan region, is scheduled to officially commence on May 3.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU, to be developed and operated by Gastrade, a project-specific consortium established by the Copelouzos group, has become particularly crucial given the energy market challenges faced by the EU following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU promises to initially offer a new gas transmission corridor to Greece and Bulgaria, and, at a latter stage, to Romania and North Macedonia, helping all these countries reduce their reliance on Russian natural gas.

Completion of the project’s second stage, expected in 2024, promises to double the unit’s capacity and enable natural gas transportation as far as Ukraine.

The Gastrade consortium is comprised of five partners, founding member Elmina Copelouzos of the Copelouzos group, Gaslog Cyprus Investments Ltd, DEPA Commercial, Bulgartransgaz, and DESFA, Greece’s gas grid operator, each holding 20 percent stakes.

All five partners have agreed to offer 2 percent each so that North Macedonia can enter the consortium with a 10 percent stake.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his Bulgarian counterpart Kiril Petkov will attend next week’s ceremony marking the start of work on the project.

All eyes on Germany’s ruble payment stance for Russian gas

Greece and the entire EU are waiting to see if Germany will agree to Russia’s demand for Gazprom gas supply payments in the ruble currency.

Berlin’s next payment to Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom is due tomorrow. To date, Chancellor German chancellor Olaf Scholz has refused to bow to Moscow’s recent payment-term demands.

The decision to be reached by Germany on this dispute with Moscow is expected to serve as a guide for most EU members.

Berlin has officially noted that Russian president Vladimir Putin’s payment demand violates the terms of an agreement signed between the two sides.

Besides creating artificial demand and, subsequently, greater value for the ruble, which has been impacted by sanctions on Russia, Moscow’s demand for natural gas payments in its currency is also seen as a Russian show of strength aiming to force the EU to succumb to Russian demands.

The EU’s refusal, so far, to bow to Russia’s ruble-currency pressure for natural gas payments has contributed to keeping gas prices at high levels.

Greek officials who took part in an energy-security meeting yesterday, called by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, reportedly stated that the EU made a mistake to reject Russia’s ruble payment demand, made in late March.

The ongoing political tension and market turbulence, resulting in higher natural gas prices, is benefitting Russia’s gas revenues.

 

Spain, Portugal price cap agreement to guide Greek plan

Spain and Portugal’s agreement with the European Commission for the implementation of a temporary cap of 50 euros per MWh on reference prices for natural gas and coal used by power plants, effectively detaching wholesale electricity market prices from the cost of these generation sources, promises to serve as a guide for Greece’s negotiations with Brussels for intervention in the country’s wholesale electricity market.

Spain and Portugal had requested a temporary cap on reference prices of 30 euros per MWh, for one year.

The price of electricity in Spain and Portugal will be the same as that applicable for transactions with the rest of the EU, via France, El Pais reported.

The limited capacity of the Iberian Peninsula’s electricity grid interconnections with France will restrict electricity exports from Spain and Portugal. Otherwise, lower electricity prices resulting from the temporary cap would have prompted a sharp rise in electricity exports from Spain and Portugal.

Though the Greek government is on standby for a European price-cap solution to the energy crisis, Athens has already begun regulatory and legislative preparations for domestic market intervention.

Electricity, gas subsidies same for May, totaling nearly €600m

Electricity and gas subsidies covering household, professional and business consumption in May will most likely remain unchanged compared to the previous month, resulting in a support package worth a total of nearly 600 million euros.

The government is expected to officially announce its subsidy package for May within the next few days.

Wholesale electricity price levels have changed only slightly between March and April. The price level was over 242 euros per MWh from the beginning of April until yesterday, slightly below the level of 272.68 euros per MWh at the end of March.

Assuming energy subsidies will remain unchanged for consumption in May, households consuming up to 300 KWh in electricity can expect subsidy support, for the month, worth approximately 72 euros.

Professionals should receive subsidies worth 130 euros per MWh, while small and medium-sized businesses can expect subsidy support worth 230 euros per MWh for supply up to 25kVA.

Household natural gas subsidies should reach 40 euros per MWh.

 

PM calls emergency meeting after Russia gas cut to Bulgaria

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will hold an emergency meeting this afternoon at the government headquarters with the energy ministry leadership’s participation following Russia’s decision yesterday to disrupt gas supply to Bulgaria, following a disruption to Poland.

The Greek leader had a telephone discussion with his Bulgarian counterpart Kiril Petkov this morning, pledging Greek energy-supply support, within the framework of EU solidarity, following Russia’s decision to disrupt supply to the neighboring Balkan country.

This support will most likely stem from Greece’s LNG terminal at Revythoussa, the islet just off Athens, through a partial reservation of this facility’s capacity for Bulgaria’s needs.

Consumption in Bulgarian at this time of the year is low, meaning supply through the Revythoussa unit should help cover the neighboring country’s needs, at least temporarily.

Bulgarian-based MET Energy has already ordered a 142,500 m3 LNG shipment through the Revythoussa terminal.

Talks in progress for Italy’s East Med gas pipeline entry

Talks are in progress for Italy’s official entry into the East Med gas pipeline project, a prospective 2,000-km pipeline planned to carry natural gas to Europe via Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Italy, energypress sources have informed.

Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed an agreement for the project’s development in 2020, without Italy’s participation, as the country’s government at the time, citing environmental issues, had reacted against the project reaching its shores.

Italy’s current Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, recently stressed that the East Med gas pipeline needs to be pursued as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The project has now gained political support in Italy, through a resolution issued in parliament urging the government to co-sign the transboundary agreement, energypress sources informed.

Italy has revised its stance on the East Med project as a result of a recent EU-27 decision to drastically reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas.

Italy could officially announce, in May, its intention to co-sign the East Med agreement, sources informed.

Lignite extraction boosted as part of emergency plan

Power utility PPC has boosted its lignite mining output by an additional 5,000 to 6,000 tons a day for its Meliti and Agios Dimitrios power stations in northern Greece and by an extra 7,000 to 8,000 tons a day for its Megalopoli power station in the Peloponnese, in response to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ call, early in April, for increased lignite reserves should Russia disrupt its natural gas supply to Europe.

The objective is to increase lignite extraction by 45 to 50 percent over a two-year period for reserves amounting to more than 15 million tons, up from the present quantity of 10.5 million tons, which would enable lignite-fired production to reach 6.5 TWh annually, up from 4.5 TWh projected in the current energy plan.

The majority of PPC’s seven lignite-fired power stations will need to be temporarily withdrawn if increased lignite quantities are to be accumulated at the yards of these power stations.

Of the country’s seven lignite-fired power stations, just one, Agios Dimitrios IV, is scheduled to operate today.

The additional 2 TWh of electricity generation that could be produced annually as a result of this initiative would still not suffice if Russia were to stop supplying natural gas to Europe.

Greece’s annual electricity consumption is estimated at 55 TWh. Last year, natural gas-fueled electricity generation covered 20 TWh of the country’s overall electricity demand, with 40 percent of the natural gas used supplied by Russia.

This means Russia’s natural gas was responsible for 8 TWh of Greece’s electricity generation last year. The Greek plan for an additional 2 TWh in generation through greater lignite production would only cover 25 percent of electricity currently produced using Russian natural gas.

Additional LNG shipments, accelerated development of RES projects, and an energy-saving policy for households, businesses and industry will also be needed to cover the gap.

Gov’t plan aims for electricity prices at first-half ’21 average

The government will pursue a strategic target aiming to reduce retail electricity prices to the average level recorded in the first half of 2021, through the implementation of a price ceiling in the wholesale electricity market and state compensation packages for electricity producers covering the price difference.

However, it remains unclear how this ambitious measure, worth at least 4 billion euros amid the current conditions, will be financed.

The government’s plan will be carried out in coordination with any proposals that may be announced by the European Commission.

Announcements, by the Greek government, are not expected before May 18, when Brussels could deliver energy-crisis proposals for member states.

The price of natural gas in coming weeks, an unknown factor, adds risk to the government’s support plan. Gas prices could further escalate if Russian president Vladimir Putin decides to disrupt supply; if Russia’s war in Ukraine intensifies; or if any other unfavorable factor comes into play.

At present, a best-case scenario would result in a price tag of at least 4 billion euros for the Greek government’s strategic plan to reduce electricity prices.

Three different financing sources could be considered: the Energy Transition Fund, currently financing monthly energy subsidies; a 900 million-euro surplus from a supplementary budget submitted to parliament a fortnight ago; and Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) money.

 

 

ExxonMobil, like Total, seems disinterested in Cretan blocks

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

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

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

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

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

Government in frantic search of €3-4bn for crisis measures

The government is frantically searching for solutions that would secure between 3 to 4 billion euros to compensate energy companies for planned price ceilings on wholesale energy prices.

Energy market conditions are adverse across the board. Consumers are struggling to meet costlier energy-bill payments, energy market companies and authorities fear an increase in unpaid receivables and its wider effects, while the government, seeing its approval rating fall by between half and one percentage point a month, is hoping for a European solution to the energy crisis, now exacerbated by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

A European solution to the energy crisis does not seem anywhere near. French president Emmanuel Macron is currently stranded by the French elections, while German chancellor Olaf Scholz appears undecided. For the time being, at least, the Greek government will need to seek a solution through the national budget.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is under no pressure to end his war on Ukraine and stop his energy-sector blackmailing of the EU as long as European energy payments for Russian gas, oil and coal, totaling 600 million dollars a day, keep flowing into Russia.

At this stage, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ proposal for a price ceiling at the TTF gas exchange appears to be the only promising solution, as this would strike at the root of the problem prompting exorbitant electricity prices around Europe.

Sanctions on Russia boost Greece’s upstream prospects

The EU’s revised natural gas strategy, seeking alternative solutions as a result of sanctions imposed on Russia, has created favorable conditions for Greece’s upstream sector as the Greek market could become a destination for upstream companies operating in Russia and now needing to shift.

EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, has forwarded letters to upstream companies already maintaining interests in Greece, informing them of the government’s intentions for a renewed, more ambitious hydrocarbon strategy.

EDEY also intends to hold meetings with these upstream companies to determine their levels of interest in the Greek market and shape its actions accordingly.

Total and ExxonMobil maintain hydrocarbon interests in Greece as co-members of a consortium holding two offshore licenses, west and southwest Crete. The two companies each have 40 percent stakes in this consortium, Greece’s ELPE holding the other 20 percent.

The consortium, it is believed, aims to conduct seismic surveys next winter at the offshore Crete licenses, still at early exploratory stages.

Besides these two licenses, a further four licenses have been granted in Greece. Energean maintains an onshore block in the Ioannina area, northwestern Greece. The company also holds a 75 percent stake at Block 2, northwest of Corfu, with ELPE as its partner. Also, ELPE holds two offshore licenses in the west, Block 10 and Ionio.

These six licenses could generate total turnover of 250 billion euros by 2030, assuming a 20 percent success rate during exploration, according to a conservative forecast made by EDEY.

Drilling for natural gas to begin with licenses in country’s west

Exploratory drilling for natural gas deposits at a total of six licenses in Greece will begin in the country’s west with two Greek companies, Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) and Energean, leading the way, according to the outcome of talks yesterday at the headquarters of EDEY, Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, which were headed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Drilling is expected to begin in mid-2023 at Energean’s onshore Ioannina block; followed, a year later, by drilling at Block 2, an offshore license northwest of Corfu that is held by Energean (75%) and ELPE (25%), following Total’s withdrawal; as well as Block 10 and Ionio, two offshore licenses held by ELPE.

Two further licenses, west and southwest of Crete, both held by a consortium that has brought together TotalEnergies (40%), ExxonMobil (40%) and ELPE (20%), are regarded as the most promising of all six licenses but, at the same time, are the least developed in terms or preliminary exploratory work. The consortium aims to conduct, next winter, seismic surveys covering 6,500 square kilometers.

Energean has already conducted a seismic survey at its Ioannina block, the most developed of all six licenses in Greece, and has set a drilling target.

Greece, Cyprus, Israel look to push ahead with key projects

The prospective East Med gas pipeline and a subsea electricity grid interconnection, projects that would link Israel with Cyprus and Greece and which are being heavily promoted as a result of the EU’s new energy policy, aiming to end the continent’s reliance on Russian gas as soon as possible, are expected to dominate the agenda of today’s trilateral meeting in Jerusalem between the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

Energy company representatives will, for the first time, also be participating in a trilateral meeting of energy ministers involving the three countries, highlighting the determination of all three countries, and the EU, for swift progress on projects and agreements that would contribute to greater energy diversification for Europe.

Greek energy minister Kostas Skrekas will be accompanied by Kostas Xifaras, chief executive of gas company DEPA Commercial; Mathios Rigas, CEO of upstream company Energean; and Manos Manousakis, CEO of Greek power grid operator IPTO.

Representatives of corresponding Cypriot and Israeli companies will also be taking part in today’s trilateral meeting.

Prospects for the development of the EuroAsia electricity grid link promising to connect the three countries have grown considerably as Israel appears to have swept aside previous reservations. Israel has wanted the completion of the Crete-Cyprus link as a prerequisite ahead of further development.

 

 

South Kavala UGS facing delay, war prompts need for cost-benefit update

The final round of privatization fund TAIPED’s tender for a prospective underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) at the almost depleted natural gas field of “South Kavala” in the Aegean Sea’s north appears set for a latter date as authorities believe the project’s cost-benefit analysis needs to be updated as a result of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

TAIPED was aiming to stage the tender’s second round late in May, but officials at the energy ministry and RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, believe the UGS project’s cost-benefit analysis now needs to be updated.

More specifically, at current gas price levels, it would cost 500 million euros to fill the UGS with gas, once its conversion from a depleted gas field has been completed. The conversion’s cost is also estimated at 500 million euros, meaning a total sum of one billion euros would currently be required to develop and fill the facility.

The project’s existing cost-benefit analysis, based on data prior to the war, is now out for consultation. It has already received two extensions.

It remains unknown if a recent European Commission decision requiring EU member states to maintain gas reserves representing 15 percent of annual consumption will be restricted to the war’s duration or become a permanent obligation.

Also, the project’s reexamination will most probably also need to take into account related domestic developments such as a plan for a gas network capacity increase.

 

DESFA calls for doubled gas network capacity, PPPs

The country’s changing energy policy, especially following an EU decision aiming to drastically reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas, will require far greater gas transmission capabilities, inevitably prompting the need for a major network capacity boost, double the current capacity, with project participation from private-sector investors through public-private partnerships, DESFA, the gas grid operator, has informed RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

The EU’s energy policy, steering Europe towards energy-source diversification, promises to establish Greece as a southeastern transit country handling far bigger quantities than at present.

Speaking at the recent energypress Power & Gas Fourum, Michalis Thomadakis, DESFA’s Director of Strategy and Development Division, noted: “Certain projects need to be developed so that we can fully utilize the new role the Greek gas transmission system is being called upon to adopt in the wider region. This can only be done with investments. It basically means that the system’s capacity needs to be doubled.”

A disruption of Russian natural gas supply to Europe would create a need for approximately 40 bcm to the Balkan region. Much of this quantity would pass through Greek territory.

New infrastructure promising to greatly increase Greece’s LNG importing capacity is already in the making. Projects include the Alexandroupoli FSRU in the country’s northeast, the Dioryga Gas FSRU planned for the Korinthos region west of Athens, as well as an additional storage tank at Greece’s only existing LNG terminal on the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens.

Given these prospects, DESFA is currently looking to develop new pipelines and make network revisions that would facilitate greater quantities to other European markets.

 

 

EU’s Fit for 55 revisions to include reduced gas use

The European Commission is preparing to present, in May, details of its Repower EU program, a strategy aiming to greatly reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian energy. Until now, the plan has been limited to objectives, without specifics on how these targets could be achieved.

Further revisions of the EU’s energy and climate policy – as presented in the recent Fit for 55 package, which set a target of a 55 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels – will be needed, through legislative revisions and directives.

The revisions could include greater tolerance for lignite and gas infrastructure, until recently treated strictly, as well as measures for an acceleration of RES and energy storage development.

As was pointed out at the recent energypress Power & Gas Forum by Pantelis Kapros, Professor of Energy Economics at the National Technical University of Athens, the EU’s energy policy, concurrently managing economic, energy security and environmental concerns, is now shifting towards greater emphasis on energy security as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the move’s wider repercussions.

Even so, the Fit for 55 objectives for 2030 are expected to be maintained, while RES targets may be raised to more ambitious levels.

The EU will also look to reduce natural gas consumption for electricity generation and heating through the use of biomethane quantities in excess of 35 billion cubic meters by 2030, green hydrogen quantities of 20 million tons by 2030, as well as energy storage system development, noted Professor Kapros, one of the architects of the EU’s energy policy.

The EU’s Fit for 55 package had originally planned for 164 bcm of Russian gas imports in 2025 and 131 bcm for 2030, but these quantities are now expected to be greatly reduced to 74 bcm and 33 bcm, respectively.

PPC capable of boosting lignite extraction by 43%, utility tells

Power utility PPC has the capacity to increase its lignite extraction to as much as 15 million tons annually, from 10.5 million tons at present, for a 43 percent increase to full-capacity lignite-fired generation, in the event of a Russian disruption of natural gas supply to Europe, according to an updated annual mining plan submitted by the utility to the energy ministry.

Even so, this increased production could still not be enough to fill the enormous gap that would be left by a Russian cut in natural gas supply.

The country’s lignite-fired electricity generation can increase to 6.5 TWh annually from the present plan of 4.5 TWh, according to the utility plan. However, PPC would need to hasten the development of a series of projects to boost productivity at its lignite mines and increase the amounts of lignite stocks at the yards of its seven lignite-fired power stations – five Agios Dimitrios units, as well as Meliti and Megalopoli.

The annual plan’s objective is to increase lignite stocks at each of the five Agios Dimitrios facilities to 1.75 million tons from 1.2 million, while also increasing the amount at Meliti to 300,000 tons from 220,000 tons this month, as well as the lignite stock at Megalopoli to 500,000 tons from 270,000 tons.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to comment on Greece’s lignite alternative, given the Russian threat, at the official launch, tomorrow, of a major-scale solar energy farm developed by Hellenic Petroleum ELPE at Livera, close to Kozani, northern Greece. Offering a 204-MW capacity, this facility is one of Europe’s biggest.