Low temperatures in Europe pushing gas prices higher, LNG tankers returning

Lower-than-usual temperatures for this time of year have greatly increased the pressure on natural gas prices, driving prices higher.

Gas prices have also increased in other European markets, including Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

In some markets, such as that of the UK, the strong demand for gas has also been attributed to factors other than the low temperatures, such as reduced wind energy production.

The current price for gas at Dutch gas trading platform TTF is 17.66 €/MWh, 17.233 €/MWh at the PEG exchange, 18.17 €/MWh at the NCG, 18.304 €/MWh at Gaspool, 18.529 €/MWh at the VTP,  and 18.575 €/MWh at the PSV, according to ICIS Heren, an established information provider for the gas, power and carbon markets.

The higher gas demand has prompted an increase in LNG tanker deliveries to European destinations. A total of 10.2 billion cubic meters were added to European terminals in March, the highest level recorded since April, 2020, and almost double the 5 bcm figure registered in January, according to latest data.

Low gas prices at European hubs earlier this year resulted in LNG tanker routes to Asian markets, where prices and profit margins were greater. Higher prices in Europe are now bringing back tankers to the continent.

As for the Greek market, two LNG tankers are scheduled to arrive at the Revythoussa terminal, on the islet just off Athens, in April, beginning, early in the month, with a joint order placed by the Heron and Mytilineos companies for 73,855 cubic meters each. It will be followed by a second order, scheduled for late in April, by Elpedison (118,168 cubic meters) and Motor Oil Hellas (33,235 cubic meters).

Two further shipments are expected at the Revythoussa terminal in May, according to the current schedule, one for Mytilineos, the other for Elpedison.

Interview: How EDA THESS achieves growth, reduction of tariffs and returns for shareholders

The main features of EDA THESS’ development program are the increased penetration of natural gas by the network’s expansion and the implementation of reduced tariffs for consumers combined with increased returns for the shareholders, as referred by the General Manager of the Company, Leonidas Bakouras, in his interview on energypress.

(See the full interview with Mr. Bakouras: Interview of the General Manager of EDA THESS, Mr. Leonidas Bakouras, on energypress.gr) 

The reduction of gas distribution tariffs for domestic and industrial consumers is a “result” of the Company’s strategy, with the main pillar being the design for high quality network construction, which is based on techno-economic criteria of efficiency.

It is no coincidence that, in the recent period due to tariff reductions, 20 new energy-intensive industries and large consumers have signed connection contracts to the natural gas network.

At the same time, the investment program of the Company, as approved by the competent Authority for the period 2021-2025, is in progress, in light of the great expectations deriving from the extremely positive results of 2020.

“We have a large Program which was approved at the end of December by the Authority for the period 2021-2025 and implementation of investments has already started in January”, said Mr. Leonidas Bakouras, pointing out that for 2020, 23,000 new connections were acquired, distributed volumes were increased by 10% compared to the previous year of 2019 and natural gas penetration reached 64% in population.

The General Manager of EDA THESS made special reference to CNG technology, which has a dual role, both for the safe and uninterrupted operation of the distribution network in case of any malfunction, and for the natural gas distribution in remote areas. According to him, the Company has supplied new areas with CNG technology, a successful model since it managed to supply even the most remote areas with natural gas.

Referring to the positive financial results of the Company, the distribution of 20 million euros in dividends to the shareholders is expected, and as Leonidas Bakouras characteristically stated: “We achieve return on equity (ROE) of 7.2%, a ratio that showed a four-year high. We are on an upward trajectory, as shareholders are satisfied, consumers are satisfied (since distribution tariffs are reduced), and employees are satisfied. A triptych that contributes to the development of our country, offering a healthy working environment and added value to the place”.

Motor Oil ‘Dioryga Gas’ FSRU on DESFA 10-yr plan, set to roll

Approval by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, of gas grid operator DESFA’s ten-year grid development plan, covering 2021 to 2030, with the inclusion of petroleum group Motor Oil’s “Dioryga Gas” FSRU project, 1.5 km southwest of the company’s refinery in Korinthos, west of Athens, paves the way for this unit’s actualization.

Motor Oil anticipates the FSRU, promising to offer yet another natural gas entry point to the domestic system, can be launched by the end of 2023.

To accept LNG via sea routes, the floating storage regasification unit’s capacity is estimated at 2-3 bcm per year.

The “Dioryga Gas” FSRU project was incorporated into DESFA’s ten-year development plan following amendments to a preliminary plan, made once an agreement had been reached between the gas grid operator and Motor Oil.

This agreement ended a dispute between the two sides over the project’s absence from the operator’s ten-year plan. Motor Oil protested against the FSRU’s exclusion, expressing its disapproval to DESFA as well as RAE.

The project’s inclusion on DESFA’s ten-year plan will enable Motor Oil to take investment decisions needed for its development.

The petroleum group is currently also examining the regulatory and commercial frameworks concerning the project with the aim of offering optimal services to users. Motor Oil intends to stage a market test in 2021.

The “Dioryga Gas” FSRU project will ease the saturation pressure on Greece’s other FSRU, on the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens, reinforce gas supply to the Greek market as the country’s LNG storage capacity will increase by 80 percent, and also facilitate further penetration of natural gas in remote parts of the country.

DEPA Commercial privatization on hold, awaiting ELFE dispute

Energy minister Kostas Skrekas’ admission of concern over the impact, on DEPA Commercial’s privatization prospects, of the gas company’s ongoing legal dispute with ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals) increases the likelihood of this sale being deferred until late this year, if not later, sources contend.

The minister, speaking at Power & Supply Forum, an online event staged earlier this week by energypress, admitted being troubled by DEPA Commercial’s unresolved legal battle with “a major consumer”.

DEPA Commercial has challenged an Athens Court of First Instance verdict that ordered the company to return 61 million euros to ELFE for alleged overcharging between 2010 and 2015. The appeal has been deferred for September and may be jointly heard with a separate case involving the two companies over a similar amount of unpaid receivables that is allegedly owed by the fertilizer and chemicals producer to DEPA.

The government will most likely wait for the outcome of this legal dispute to be settled before taking any further steps in the DEPA Commercial privatization, planned to offer the Greek State’s 65 percent stake of the company and a 35 percent stake held by Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE).

Regardless of the outcome at the appeals court, this legal wrangle is expected to be taken all the way to the Council of State, Greece’s Supreme Administrative Court, the sources noted.

Should ELFE be vindicated in the overcharging case, other DEPA customers – even bigger consumers than ELFE – can also be expected to also take legal action, which could end up costing the gas company as much as a billion euros in refunds, the sources said.

Cancellation of the current privatization procedure and an ensuing company split of DEPA Commercial that would enable the sale of subsidiary Fysiko Aerio/Hellenic Energy Company is an unlikely prospect, the sources added.

Desfa-Gek Terna, Energean to S. Kavala UGS tender 2nd rnd

DESFA-GEK TERNA and Energean Oil & Gas have advanced to the second-round, binding-offers stage of a tender offering use, development and operation of an underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) in the almost depleted natural gas field of “South Kavala”, while China’s CMEC-MAISON GROUP failed to qualify, privatization fund TAIPED has announced in a statement.

Following the signing of confidentiality agreements, the two qualifiers will be granted access to the tender’s virtual data room, where financial and technical data will be uploaded for due diligence procedures.

However, much work lies ahead before this project matures to enable the submission of binding offers. A number of regulatory issues remain pending, officials monitoring developments have informed, describing the project as complex and highly technical.

Pending issues include determining the percentage of the UGS’s capacity to be regulated for pre-determined earnings, and the percentage of capacity whose earnings will be shaped by market forces. The regulatory period and WACC level also need to be decided and set.

Given these tasks, as well as obstacles raised by the pandemic, binding offers are not expected to be submitted any sooner than late-2021. The final stage of this tender appears most likely to take place early in 2022.

Power & Gas Supply Forum returns for second edition

Returning after a successful inaugural staging last year, the Power & Gas Supply Forum, organized by the energypress team, is taking place today as an online event.

Free access to livestreaming of the forum is available through the energypress.gr website.

Members of the public who tune in will be able to participate interactively by forwarding questions to the forum’s speakers, making observations and providing comments.

The event will be opened by energy minister Kostas Skrekas through a live interview.

Spain’s Repsol also exiting Ioannina license, to be fully held by Energean

Spain’s Repsol is continuing to disinvest its hydrocarbon interests in the Greek market in the wake of a return to the Greek State of its licensing rights for a block in Etoloakarnania, northwestern Greece, the company’s latest move being a plan to withdraw from a license concerning a block in Ioannina, also in the northwest.

Repsol, which formed a partnership with Energean Oil & Gas for the Ioannina block, holds a 60 percent stake in this project, now at a pre-drilling stage, as an exploratory step.

Repsol has informed EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, of its decision to withdraw from the Ioannina block, according to sources. The Spanish petroleum firm’s 60 percent stake will be transferred to Greek partner Energean, currently holder of the license’s other 40 percent, the sources added.

The Spanish company’s decisions on Greece are part of a wider disinvestment strategy aiming to reduce the firm’s international exposure to hydrocarbon exploration and production activities, sources explained.

Energean will seek a deadline extension, from EDEY, for drilling at the Ioannina license as it intends to find a new partner, sources informed. The Greek company remains interested in exploring the area’s hydrocarbon potential, the sources added.

Repsol’s intentions concerning an offshore block in the Ionian Sea, for which it has formed a 50-50 joint venture with Hellenic Petroleum, remain unclear.

DESFA’s Alexandroupoli FSRU entry awaiting DG Comp OK

Gas grid operator DESFA’s agreement, last November, for the acquisition of a 20 percent stake in Gastrade, the company established by the Copelouzos group for the development and operation of the Alexandroupoli FSRU, a floating LNG terminal planned for Greece’s northeast, requires, as its final step, approval from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition, to officially make the operator the consortium’s fifth member.

DG Comp approval of DESFA’s agreement is needed as the operator, managing Greece’s gas transmission system, is entering an independent gas system through its agreement to buy a Gastrade stake.

The DG Comp’s endorsement of the anticipated DESFA entry is seen as a formality following its recent approval of the entry of Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz as a fourth member of the consortium, also with a 20 percent stake.

A finalized investment decision by Gastrade for the development of the Alexandroupoli FSRU is expected this spring. The unit’s launch is scheduled for the first half of 2023.

The FID will enable the procurement procedure for the project’s equipment to go ahead, beginning with the floating unit, for which a Gastrade tender has already been completed.

A preferred bidder has also been declared for the FSRU’s subsea-and-overland pipeline, to link the floating unit with the country’s gas grid.

Bids for a tender offering a contract for the design, procurement and construction of the project’s fixed mooring system were submitted in late-February.

Talks are still in progress, at a diplomatic level, for the possible entry into the Alexandroupoli FSRU by North Macedonia’s state gas company, through the acquisition of a 10 percent stake from Gastrade. The outcome of these talks will not affect the project’s development.

Barriers, restrictions affecting power, gas market liberalization

Greece’s retail electricity and gas markets are moving towards full liberalization, but, in the course, needing to overcome major barriers and restrictions, a European Commission report for 2020 has highlighted.

Despite the progress made, obstacles in four key areas continue to obstruct the entry of new players in the country’s electricity and gas markets, the report noted.

Disincentives of regulatory nature, market inequalities, entrepreneurial and procedural barriers, as well as customer inaction were identified as the four key areas that need to be dealt with if full liberalization of the electricity and gas markets is to be achieved, the report found.

On the regulatory front, proposals offered by the European Commission focus on the need for a consistent framework offering long-term stability and security for market players.

Market surveillance and monitoring by authorities needs to be effective and accurate to prevent unfair competition behavior by market players, it added.

On market entry, the report recommends actions that would enhance the procedure’s reliability and uniformity.

As for customer immobility, signifying a market still not fully mature, the European Commission report proposes the provision of improved information to customers before supply agreements are signed, greater transparency, better price-comparing ability, as well as mechanisms protecting consumers against unprincipled actions by suppliers.

South Kavala UGS qualifiers in March, plenty of work needed

Privatization fund TAIPED is expected to have completed its appraisal of first-round bids in a tender offering development and operation of an underground gas storage facility (UGS) in the almost depleted natural gas field of “South Kavala” in northern Greece next month, possibly within the first half of March, energypress sources have informed.

The fund, at that point, will be ready to announce its list of second-round qualifiers.

TAIPED and the government are taking cautious steps for this project, regarded as complex, especially on matters concerning the tender’s binding-offers stage, sources informed.

Three bidding teams have submitted non-binding expressions of interest for the first round. These are: China Machinery Engineering Co. Ltd. (CMEC) – Maison Group; DESFA – GEK Terna; and Energean Oil & Gas (in alphabetical order).

Much work appears to still lie ahead for this privatization, whose completion is not expected any sooner than next autumn, sources noted.

Pending matters include the delivery of a finalized operating framework for the South Kavala UGS by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

This framework will determine the pricing system for the UGS, or the proportion of the facility’s earnings to be regulated and the proportion to be shaped through competitive procedures.

Besides RAE’s operating framework, bidders will also need to conduct due diligence before submitting second-round offers.

 

 

Robust EDA THESS results for 2020, profits increased by 3.2%

The results of EDA THESS for the fiscal year 2020, were approved by the BoD of the Company, following a decision taken at the meeting held on 16/02/21.

As stressed by the General Manager, Mr. Leonidas Bakouras, despite the intense instability that prevailed due to the pandemic, EDA THESS recorded strong growth rates for 2020 continuing its successful course.

The Company ensured the smooth continuation of all its operations, fully respecting the current legislation and the regulatory framework, while complying with the principles of transparency, impartially and equal treatment of Distribution Users and final consumers.

The results of the Company reflect the achievement of all business objectives throughout the range of its activities. Specifically, in 2020 there was a significant growth of the market, with ~ 23.000 new connections and a penetration rate that exceeds 64% in population of the areas of its License. At the same time, the distributed volumes amounted to 448.4 mil. Nm3 increased by 9.6% compared to 2019. The development program for 2020 amounting to € 36 mil. for the expansion of the distribution network and the supply of all new areas was fully implemented.

As Mr. Bakouras pointed out, the impressive performance of the previous year, is also reflected in the financial results of the Company, as the total revenue exceeded € 62.3 mil. showing an increase of 8.1% compared to 2019.

At the end of the year, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) amounted to € 43.4 mil. increased by 4.5% compared to the corresponding period of the previous year. At the same time, earnings after taxes (EAT) reached € 20.5 mil., showing an increase of 3.2% compared to the previous year, resulting in the increased profitability for a fourth consecutive year. The Return on Equity (ROE) ratio also showed a four-year high, which amounted to 7.2%.

The strong profitability presented by EDA THESS results in financial efficiency for shareholders, as the distributed dividends are expected to reach € 19.5 mil. increased by 3.2% compared to the dividends distributed in 2019.

Commenting on this, the General Manager stressed that “the results of the previous year are based on the perfect organization and high technical expertise of the management and staff, the strict planning, the discipline for the compliance with schedule and the dedication to goals. Having laid a solid foundation through a long and successful journey, we fully secure the areas of the License. EDA THESS, as a growth lever for the areas where it operates, continues with the same dynamic, the implementation of big investments, contributing to further impetus of the national economy.

Concluding, Mr. Bakouras stressed that the targeting of the development strategy and the long-term investment planning, based on technical and economic criteria, led to the further reduction of the Distribution Tariffs. From January 1st, the weighted average distribution tariff of EDA THESS that has been approved by the Authority shows a further decline of 14.8% in Thessaloniki and 21.9% in Thessaly, compared to the previous regulatory year.

On his part, the Chairman of the BoD, Mr. Ioannis Tsitsopoulos stated that: “In a difficult situation with the pandemic having caused a significant blow to the domestic and international economic and social environment, EDA THESS managed to show amazing adaptation, to continue its dynamic growth and to fully achieve the goals it had set for 2020, while recording a significant increase in all key financial figures for the year 2020. This result adds even more value to the Company’s success. 

Warm congratulations to the General Manager, the executives, and the staff of EDA THESS who with continuous struggle and dedication to the smooth operation and the goals of the Company, have managed to make it a strong Company of high prestige, with international impact and high-performance standards, recognized from the citizens, the companies, the suppliers, the technical world of the country but also from the State itself. 

I wish the positive course of the Company to continue smoothly in 2021. The policy of focusing on innovation, continuous improvement of the quality of our services, investments, and digital transformation, is sure that will bring even more positive results in the future and in the penetration of natural gas for the benefit of local communities and National Economy. The BoD and I personally will continue to stay alert and assist in the continuous growth dynamics of the Company, ensuring with our decisions its positive image and perspective, as well as its competitiveness”.

Subsidy program for Athens gas heating system installations just launched

A latest subsidy program supporting natural gas heating system installations, the third to be offered, this time focused on households in the wider Athens area, has just been launched by distributor EDA Attiki.

No income criteria have been attached to this latest subsidy program, promising applicants cost savings of between 300 and 3,000 euros for conversions of existing heating systems to natural gas.

The subsidy program will remain open until applications have fully covered its budget of 2.85 million euros.

A strong response to the offer is expected. Applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Subsidy amounts will be directly paid by EDA Attiki to the tradesmen selected by successful applicants for their gas heating system installations, once all supporting documents have been provided.

 

EDA THESS network expansion lowers distribution cost up to 56%

Gas distributor EDA THESS, covering the Thessaloniki and Thessaly regions, has, besides boosting its total revenue, managed to reduce distribution costs shared by consumers as a result of the company’s swift and well-planned distribution network expansion.

The gas distributor’s household, business and industrial consumers in Thessaloniki and Thessaly are now benefitting from significant distribution cost reductions that have reached as much as 56 percent, as the network expansion is enabling EDA THESS to impose smaller distribution charges on an increased number of consumers.

Since January 1, the company’s distribution costs dropped a further 14.8 percent in Thessaloniki and 21.9 percent in Thessaly, compared to the previous regulatory period.

The company’s industrial consumers have benefited most as their distribution costs have fallen by 45 percent in Thessaloniki and 56 percent in Thessaly, compared to distribution costs up until November, 2020.

“Our job is to distribute gas to as many regions as possible and broaden its use as much as possible,” EDA THESS general manager Leonidas Bakouras told energypress in response to a related question.

Looking ahead to further expansion, EDA THESS has begun implementing a new development plan for 2021 to 2025, estimated to be worth 156 million euros.

SBE, the Federation of Industries of Greece, in a related statement, welcomed this considerable distribution cost reduction.

Gas developments in the East Med

The international oil companies (IOCs) are still reeling under the impact of low oil and gas prices and massive losses and asset write-offs during 2020. ExxonMobil, under increasing pressure, is considering further spending cuts and even a shake-up of its board.

The path to full recovery will be slow and at the end of it, in 2-3 years, the IOCs will be different, placing more emphasis on clean energy and renewables.

In the meanwhile, around the East Med, Egypt is forging ahead. It has signed a new exploration agreement with Shell for an offshore block in the Red Sea. This is in addition to the 22 agreements signed during 2020 that included major IOCs such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, Eni and Total. Moreover, EGPC and EGAS are planning to offer onshore and offshore exploration blocks for bidding in February.

This continuing activity led to the discovery of 47 oil and 15 natural gas fields in 2020, 13% more than in 2019, despite Covid-19.

Tareq El-Molla, Egypt’s petroleum minister, signaled earlier this month Egypt’s intention to expand its petrochemicals sector to take advantage of the country’s expanding hydrocarbon resources. Egypt has updated its petrochemical national plan until 2023 to meet the increasing prospects in this industry.

LNG exports

Egypt has also benefited from the recent increase in LNG prices, resuming exports from its liquefaction plant at Idku, with most exports going to China, India and Turkey. The country is also ready to resume exports from its second liquefaction plant at Damietta starting end February. This has been lying idle since 2012 due to disputes that have now been resolved.

LNG exports will mainly utilize surplus gas from the Zohr gasfield and possibly imports from Israel, should prices allow it.

In fact, the resumption of LNG exports from Idku relieved some of the pressure on Egypt’s gas market, which is in oversupply partly due to impact of the pandemic, but also due to falling gas demand in Egypt’s power sector and growth in renewable energy.

El-Molla said that Egypt is planning a revival of its LNG exports. But this depends greatly on what happens to global markets and prices.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said that the Asian LNG demand and price spike in January was a short-term phenomenon and it is not an indicator that global demand will rebound in 2021. The IEA expects only a small recovery in global gas demand this year, after the decline in 2020, partly due to the pandemic. But given ongoing concerns over the pandemic, the rate of gas demand growth will remain uncertain. The IEA said the longer-term future of LNG markets remains challenging.

Gas from Israel

Chevron – having acquired Noble Energy and its interests in the region last year – with Delek and their partners in Israel’s Leviathan and Tamar gasfields, signed an agreement to invest $235million in a new subsea pipeline, expanding existing facilities. According to an announcement by Delek, the pipeline will connect facilities at Israeli city Ashod to the EMG pipeline at Ashkelon, enabling Chevron and its partners to increase gas exports to Egypt to as much as 7billion cubic meters annually (bcm/yr).

The partners signed agreements last year to export as much as 85bcm/yr gas to Egypt over a 15 year period. Gas supplies from Israel to Egypt started in January last year.

It is not clear at this stage if new agreements will be reached to fully utilize the increased export capacity from Israel to Egypt, but given Egypt’s gas oversupply this may not be likely.

These developments, though, show the vulnerability of Cyprus and the weakness of relying on trilateral alliances with Egypt and Israel for its gas exports.

EastMed gas pipeline

This is being kept alive by regional politicians. Only this week, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia confirmed their support for the EastMed gas pipeline.

While such developments are good politically, bringing like-minded countries around the East Med closer together, they are not sufficient to advance the project. This requires private investment and buyers of the gas in Europe. None of these is forthcoming, because the project is not commercially viable. By the time the gas arrives in Europe it will be too expensive to compete with existing, much cheaper, supplies.

Europe is also moving away from gas and from new gas pipeline projects. Catharina Sikow Magny, Director DG Energy European Commission (EC), covered this at the European Gas Virtual conference on 28 January. Answering the question how much natural gas will the EU need in the future, she said ZERO. She was emphatic that with the EU committed to net zero emissions by 2050, by then there will be zero unabated gas consumed in Europe. In addition, with the EU having increased the emissions reduction target from 40% to 55% by 2030, the use of gas in Europe will be decreasing in order to meet the 2030 and 2050 climate targets. She said that ongoing natural gas projects are expected to be completed by 2022 – with no more needed after that.

With exports to global markets becoming increasingly difficult, there are other regional options to make use of the gas discovered so far around the East Med, including power generation in support of intermittent renewables and petrochemicals, as Egypt is doing. The newly constituted East Med Gas Forum (EMGF) should place these at the heart of its agenda.

What about Cyprus?

Hydrocarbon exploration activities around Cyprus are at a standstill, partly due to the continuing impact of Covid-19, but also due to the dire state of the IOCs and the challenges being faced by the natural gas industry in general.

This lack of activity in resuming offshore exploration may be a blessing, taking the heat off hydrocarbons, while priorities shift to discussions to resolve the Cyprus problem and the Greece-Turkey maritime disputes.

Dr Charles Ellinas, @CharlesEllinas

Senior Fellow

Global Energy Center

Atlantic Council

3 February, 2021

 

Total, ExxonMobil, ELPE delay Crete surveys for next winter

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

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

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

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

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

DEPA Commercial RES entry adds value to its ongoing privatization

Gas supplier DEPA Commercial’s move into the renewable energy sector through a 49 percent acquisition of North Solar, a company developing solar energy projects with a total capacity of 499.61 MW in northern Greece’s west Macedonia region, provides new prospects and added value to the gas company’s ongoing privatization procedure.

The agreement between DEPA Commercial and North Solar, announced last Friday, diversifies the gas company’s energy portfolio, activities, earnings potential and risk.

The move follows in the footsteps of strategies adopted by numerous international gas companies, expanding their reach into the RES sector to broaden their revenue sources and reduce environmental footprints.

DEPA Commercial is currently at the final stage of a sale launched by privatization fund TAIPED.

In addition to the prospective benefits promised by its RES entry, the gas company is also expected to gain in value as a result of its detachment from previous gas-auction responsibilities maintained during the market’s liberalization process.

DEPA Commercial’s market share appears to have stabilized at levels of approximately 40 percent, while the company’s financial performance, according to sources, improved in 2020.

 

DEPA Commercial sale moving ahead as planned despite ELFE legal dispute

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

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

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

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

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

Greece, Israel eyeing broader alliance for Balkans, central Europe

The Greek-Israeli energy alliance is broadening its scope by aiming for the establishment of a Greek gateway to facilitate Israeli gas supply to the Balkan region and, by extension, central Europe.

This objective, part of strong diplomatic relations between the two countries in energy, was confirmed during a recent virtual meeting between Greece’s newly appointed energy minister Kostas Skrekas and his Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz.

Their bilateral talks will be followed up by broader meeting today to involve the energy ministers of Greece, Israel, Cyprus, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, North Macedonia and Hungary.

The participating officials will seek to lay the foundations for a closer energy alliance that would facilitate distribution from Israel’s Leviathan gas field via alternate routes – the Alexandroupoli FSRU and the IGP – to soon be offered by Greece.

The aforementioned Balkan and central European countries are extremely keen on securing alternative supply routes, diplomatic sources informed.

Much work is needed by Israel and Greece to establish energy alliances with Balkan countries, but a first step will seemingly be taken today.

Outcome of DEPA appeal against ELFE crucial for sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spain’s Repsol on verge of exiting Greek upstream market

Spanish petroleum firm Repsol, a member of consortiums holding licenses to three fields in Greece, is on the verge of leaving the country’s upstream market as a part of a wider strategic adjustment prompted by the oil crisis and the pandemic, developments that have impacted exploration plans, as well as a company plan to reduce its environmental footprint, sources have informed.

The upstream industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, which has driven down prices and demand. The EU’s climate-change policies are another key factor behind Repsol’s decision.

Repsol is believed to have decided to significantly reduce the number of countries in which it is currently present for hydrocarbon exploration and production, the intention being to limit operations to the more lucrative of fields.

All three fields in Repsol’s Greek portfolio are still at preliminary research stages and do not offer any production assurances, meaning they will most probably be among the first to be scrapped by the company from its list of projects.

Respol formed a partnership with Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) for offshore exploration in the Ionian Sea. Repsol is the operator in this arrangement. A license secured by the two partners for this region in 2018 was approved in Greek Parliament a year later.

Also, in 2017, Repsol agreed to enter a partnership with Energean Oil & Gas, acquiring 60 percent stakes, and the operator’s role, for onshore blocks in Ioannina and Etoloakarnania, northwestern Greece.

Repsol maintains interests in over 40 countries, producing approximately 700,000 barrels per day.

Prinos field threatened by poor results, decline projection

Operations at the Prinos field, Greece’s only producing oil field, in the country’s offshore north, are in great danger of being disrupted following poor production figures in 2020 and a further decline predicted for 2021, a wider company update just delivered by Energean Oil & Gas, the field’s license holder, has suggested.

In 2020, production at the oil field reached just 1,800 barrels per day, while its inferior-quality output was sold at a discount price, between 7 to 8 dollars below Brent levels.

This level of output represents less than 4 percent of Energean’s overall production, which, last year, reached 48,000 barrels – mostly natural gas.

Output at the Prinos field is projected to drop below 1,500 bpd in 2021 as, even if a rescue plan for the facility is approved, related investments needed at the facility will take time to complete.

The rescue plan, announced last June by Energean and dubbed Green Prinos, envisions an adjustment for eco-friendly operations through a series of investments worth 75 million euros.

Energean’s administration, in its company update to analysts, expressed hope that a solution can be found in the first quarter of 2021 for its rescue plan, submitted to the Greek government, which then forwarded the plan to the European Commission.

The rescue plan has remained stuck at the European Directorate for Competition, whose approval is required.

Energean is considering the development of a carbon capture and storage project at its Prinos field, which would be the first in Greece, promising new life for the project, along with the support of investments at field E, whose development depends on the outcome of a financing bid, company officials informed.

Overall, the news for the Prinos field is not good. Losses incurred by this unit since September, 2019, when its crisis began before being further aggravated by the pandemic, have exceeded 100 million euros.

This loss, however, has not affected the overall financial results of Energean, generating significant earnings in Egypt, primarily. Israel, too, could become a major source of earnings for the company as of next year.

Mediterranean Gas & Energy Week, key regional summit, starts tomorrow

Two of the Mediterranean’s most important summits, the 3rd Mediterranean Oil & Gas Summit and the 8th Balkans Petroleum, have merged for Mediterranean Gas & Energy Week, a major online oil & gas event, taking place take January 19 to 21.

Following the success of the Global E&P Summit and the regional Africa Upstream, Gas & LNG Summit, North Africa’s governments will be gathering again to meet with European and Balkans officials and IOCs at the Mediterranean Gas & Energy Week, organized by IN-VR, global leader in investment networking.

Key IOCs, investors and service providers will present their new opportunities and solutions, and network with attendees
online.

Top-ranked government officials from the region, including Greece, Montenegro, Malta and Albania, will present their licensing rounds, LNG mega-projects, and new midstream projects, together with the Mediterranean’s most-established investors and new players, including Shell, TAQA Arabia, Dana Gas and Enagas.

Also, over its three days, the event promises to be filled with networking opportunities and the latest upstream and midstream developments.

Participants will include:

● Vladan Dubljević, Director, Montenegro Hydrocarbon Administration
● Alexandra Sdoukou, Secretary General for Energy and Mineral Resources, Ministry of the Environment and Energy of Greece
● Adrian Bylyku, Executive Director, AKBN
● Dr Albert Caruana, Director General, Continental Shelf Department, Office of the Prime Minister, Malta
● Khaled Abu Bakr, Executive Chairman, TAQA Arabia
● Patrick Allman-Ward, CEO, Dana Gas
● Francisco de la Flor, Director of International Organizations, Enagas
● Morris J. Becker, Senior Exploration Geoscientist – Portfolio & New Business, Middle East and Africa, Shell
● Charles Ellinas, CEO, EC Cyprus Natural Hydrocarbons Company Ltd (eCNHC)

Brussels forwards new PCI list, to be finalized late this year

The European Commission’s fifth PCI (Projects of Common Interest) list in the electricity and natural gas sectors, being forwarded for public consultation, features, for now, a number of project additions and removals, compared to the previous edition.

Market officials and state authorities will have the opportunity to offer their views and observations over the consultation procedure’s twelve-week period before the European Commission adopts a finalized version of the fifth PCI list towards the end of 2021, based on an existing Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) framework, focused on linking the energy infrastructure of EU countries.

PCI projects are entitled to EU funding support. Brussels authorities introduced selection criteria revisions in December, ascertaining, however, that the impact of all projects, especially on CO2 emissions, will be appraised when finalizing the PCI list’s fifth edition.

The provisional list includes a number of electricity and gas sector projects concerning Greece.

Electricity-sector projects involving Greece include: a Bulgarian-Greek grid interconnection, expected to be completed in 2023; an Egyptian-Greek-Libyan grid interconnection headed by Green Power 2020 and scheduled for delivery in 2025; as well as three Egypt-Greece interconnections, two of these featuring Kykladika Meltemia SA as project promoter and expected to be respectively completed in 2025 and 2028, and a third headed by Elica SA and scheduled for completion in 2028.

An energy storage project planned by Eunice for Ptolemaida, northern Greece, and scheduled for completion in 2022 is a new entry on the PCI list.

In the natural gas sector, the PCI list includes: the Alexandroupoli FSRU (2022); a subsea pipeline between Greece and Italy, known as the Poseidon Pipeline (2025); EastMed, a pipeline planned to carry natural gas from the east Mediterranean to European markets, via Crete (2025); a compressor station in Thessaloniki’s Nea Mesimvria area (2022); a metering and regulating station in Megalopoli, Peloponnese (2025); a compressor station in Abelia, in Greece’s mid-north (2023); a compressor station in Kipoi, northeastern Greece (2024); a pipeline link for the Alexandroupoli FSRU (2022); a TAP pipeline capacity increase (2025); and the development of an underground gas storage facility (UGS) in the almost depleted natural gas field of “South Kavala” in northern Greece (2023).

Energean plc takes Final Investment Decision on Karish North development

Energean plc has taken Final Investment Decision (FID) on the Karish North gas development, offshore Israel, 21-months after the announcement of the discovery, the company has announced in a statement.

In November 2020, DeGolyer and MacNaughton issued an independent Competent Persons Report that, inter alia, certified 2P reserves of 32 Bcm of gas plus 34 million barrels of liquids
(approximately 241 million barrels of oil equivalent in aggregate) in Karish North as at 30 June 2020.

The discovery will be commercialised via a low-cost tie-back to the Energean Power FPSO, which will be just 5.4km away.

Production from the first well at Karish North is expected to be up
to 300 mmscf/d (approximately 3 Bcm/yr) and first production is expected during 2H 2023.

Initial capital expenditure in the project is expected to be approximately $150 million, or $0.6/boe; and Energean estimates that the project will deliver IRRs in excess of 40%.

On 13 January 2020, Energean signed an 18-month, $700 million term loan facility agreement with J.P. Morgan AG and Morgan Stanley Senior Funding, Inc., the primary uses of
which will be:

• Accelerating the development of Karish North, enabling the capital expenditure on the project to be undertaken in advance of first gas from Karish Main. Following first gas from Karish North, the overall Karish project well stock will be able to produce well in excess of
the full 8 Bcm/yr capacity of the FPSO, retaining operational redundancy in the well stock therefore further enhancing overall project reliability.

• Funding the $175 million up-front consideration for the acquisition of the minority interest in Energean Israel Limited, as announced on 30 December 2020, which becomes payable on transaction close, expected 1Q 2021. Energean views the acquisition, for between $380 million and $405 million in total, as highly value-accretive, with very attractive transaction metrics.

Additional uses of the loan are:

• Funding approximately $100 million of capital expenditure required to install the second oil train and second riser on the Energean Power FPSO, which will increase the Energean Power FPSO liquids production capacity to approximately 40 kbopd ( from 21 kbopd) and allow maximum gas production of 800 mmscf/d (approximately 8 Bcm/yr, from 6.5 Bcm/yr). Both the oil train and the second riser are expected to become operational during 2022.

• The 2022 offshore Israel exploration and appraisal drilling programme in early 2022, with up to five wells including:

  • Appraisal of the potential oil rim that was identified as part of the Karish development drilling campaign plus exploration of further prospective gas and liquids volumes within the Karish lease.
  • Block 12, which is located between the Karish and Tanin leases, and is estimated to contain gross prospective recoverable resources in excess of 108 Bcm (3.8 Tcf)
    according to the D&M CPR, with the primary targets having geological chances of success ranging between 63% and 79%. The first well is expected to target the 20
    Bcm (0.7 Tcf) Athena prospect, for which the primary target (11 Bcm /0.4 Tcf) has a 70% geological chance of success. Success at Athena would significantly de-risk
    the remaining 88 Bcm (3.1 Tcf) of prospective resources in the block. Any discovery in that block would be prioritised over the development of Tanin due to (i) lower capital expenditure investment (as compared to Tanin) and (ii) the absence of any seller royalties, unlike the Karish and Tanin leases as Block 12 was not part of the original Karish-Tanin acquisition.
  • Additional prospects assessed to contain 102 Bcm (3.6 Tcf) of gross recoverable prospective resources, based on management estimates, in Energean Israel’s remaining exploration blocks.
    • Whilst total pre-production capex guidance for the Karish Main project remains at $1.7 billion plus the $140 million of deferred payments to TechnipFMC, the balance of the Loan will provide further financial flexibility for Energean Israel Limited.
    The Loan will only be drawn to the extent necessitated and drawn amounts will attract a margin of 5.75%, which steps up by 0.25% every three months, with a maximum of 7.00%. The Loan has been sized to cover the cost of associated fees and interest. Energean maintains its target to retain its medium-term net debt / EBITDAX ratio below 2.0x                                                                                                                                                    On 13 January 2021, Energean also agreed with the existing lenders of its $1.45 billion project finance facility to extend the maturity by nine months, from December 2021 to September 2022.
    Combined with the above Loan, the extension to the maturity date of the project finance facility provides Energean the necessary time and flexibility to optimise its long-term capital structure.
    This is expected to take place in 2021, depending on market conditions.                                                                                                                                                                                                    Mathios Rigas, CEO of Energean, commented: “I am delighted that we have taken Final Investment on Karish North, proving the value of the Energean Power FPSO as a quick and low-cost commercialisation route for our assets in Israel.
    We are also increasing the liquid processing capacity of our FPSO to process the additional volumes we discovered for minimal incremental cost.
    The new term loan and the extension of our project finance facility are a further testament of the confidence of the financial markets in Energean and I want to thank all the institutions for their support. We remain committed to optimising our capital structure to ensure that we maximise total shareholder returns whilst implementing our growth ambitions in Israel and the East Med. We remain on track to achieve our goal of delivering meaningful free cash flows that will support the payment of a sustainable dividend whilst also moving towards our stated target to achieve
    net zero emissions.”

DEPA calls for RAE to prioritize Kipoi, Abelia compressor stations

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Kavala UGS tender qualifiers by early February

Greece’s privatization fund TAIPED will finalize its list of second-round qualifiers in a tender offering development and operation of an underground gas storage facility (UGS) in the almost depleted natural gas field of “South Kavala” in northern Greece by late January or early February, sources have informed.

Three parties submitted first-round expressions of interest: China Machinery Engineering Co. Ltd. (CMEC) – Maison Group; DESFA – GEK Terna; and Energean Oil & Gas (in alphabetical order).

Assessments of their supporting documents and other criteria are expected to be completed within the next twenty days.

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, still needs to deliver decisions concerning the operating framework of the UGS.

These pending issues include a RAE decision on the percentage of the UGS project’s capacity to be regulated, thus pre-determining this proportion’s revenue, and the earnings percentage to be determined by market forces.

The authority also needs to decide on the duration of the regulatory period and its WACC level.

North Macedonia involvement in key Alexandroupoli projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gas market competition intensifies, TAP lowering prices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skrekas was previously deputy minister for agricultural development and food.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

PPC holding back on Ptolemaida V fuel decision

Power utility PPC will take ongoing global technological developments and their comparative costs into account to decide, in approximately a year’s time, on the fuel to be used at its prospective Ptolemaida V power station in northern Greece from 2028 onwards, when a switch from lignite has been scheduled.

The facility, expected to be completed in 2022, is initially planned to operate as a lignite-fired power station for a six-year period before switching to another fuel or fuels.

All options are being left open, meaning that, beyond 2028, Ptolemaida V could run on natural gas, biomass, waste-to-energy or a combination of these energy sources.

Biomass represents an advantageous option as it can be produced at the utility’s older lignite-fired units in the area, PPC’s chief executive Giorgos Stassis has pointed out.

If a biomass option is chosen, PPC intends to provide land for farmers and cooperatives to cultivate plants for energy production. Yield potential and the local climate promise to be the two main factors behind PPC’s selection of plant species to be cultivated for biomass purposes.

Japan’s Mitsubishi, providing the new facility’s electromechanical equipment, was commissioned, some time ago, to conduct a study determining the optimal choice of fuel for Ptolemaida V beyond 2028.

Continued use of lignite, after 2028, at Ptolemaida V has also been tabled as a possibility if carbon-capture utilization and storage (CCUS) technology is applied for a zero net carbon footprint.

In such a case, the CCUS technology could be applied on a wider scale to lure industrial units to the region for the establishment of a new industrial zone.