US investments in Greek RES sector rising, LNG imports up

New US investments in Greece’s RES sector are on the rise, the energy ministry has stressed following a meeting yesterday between Greek energy minister Costis Hatzidakis and the U.S. Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt, for a discussion on major energy project plans in the wider region and the related American investment activity.

U.S. companies such as ONEX, Black Summit, with support from DFC (International Development Finance Corporation), Quantum Energy Partners, National Energy, General Electric, Fortress Investment Group, Blink and Tesla are all currently pursuing investments in the Greek market.

Hatzidakis, the energy minister, expressed satisfaction over the level of foreign investments in Greece, noting U.S. participation has significantly increased, especially in the energy sector.

Last month, 547 Energy, an American renewable energy venture backed by Quantum Energy Partners, participated for a third time in a row in a RES auction staged by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, adding 107 MW in wind energy capacity to its Greek portfolio for a current tally of eight RES projects and 390 MW, the energy ministry noted.

National Energy is drawing American funds to develop wind and solar energy projects in Greece with a total capacity of 270 MW, the statement added.

Also, the energy ministry noted, General Electric has supplied equipment for a wind energy farm in Fokida, west of Athens, a project being partially financed by the Fortress Investment Group; Blink recently began an investment plan in the electromobility sector, for rechargers and other equipment; while Tesla, a producer, amongst other things, of electric vehicles, recently announced a plan to expand its operations into Greece.

During their meeting, Hatzidakis and Pyatt also discussed the partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel, plus the U.S.

The progress of work at the Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas pipeline, whose geostrategic importance was stressed by the Greek minister, was also addressed. A closer association with Bulgarian contractors is being sought for the project’s punctual delivery.

Work on the Alexandroupoli FSRU in northeastern Greece is progressing at a satisfactory pace, the two officials agreed, noting the project will have a positive impact on geostrategic and energy matters.

The U.S. supplied nearly half of the 2,651,903 cubic meters of LNG imported into Greece in the first half of 2020, almost quadruple the amount supplied by America to Greece during the equivalent period a year earlier.

US backs Greece’s east Mediterranean activities, major projects

All countries in the east Mediterranean region must carry out their activities in accordance with international law, including the International Law of the Sea as stipulated by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Greek and US governments have jointly announced following a high-level virtual conference held yesterday on energy issues.

This statement clearly offers US support for the positions of Greece, facing Turkish provocation.

The working group’s participating Greek and US officials reiterated the commitment of the two countries to cooperate on the effort to diversify energy sources in southeast Europe, collaborate with regional partners for energy source development, and promote regional energy security.

The latest energy working group builds on steadily growing bilateral cooperation following Greek-US strategic dialogue meetings in December, 2018 and October, 2019, the joint announcement added.

The Greek team was represented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Deputy Minister for Economic Diplomacy and Openness Kostas Frangogiannis and Deputy Environment and Energy Minister Gerassimos Thomas (photo). The US team was represented by Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis Fannon and Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes.

Fannon, the Assistant Secretary of State, expressed satisfaction on the completion of the Greek segment of the TAP gas pipeline project, to carry Azeri gas to Europe.

The US official also offered support for the ongoing construction of the Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas pipeline interconnection and the progress achieved in plans for an FSRU in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, a South Kavala underground gas storage facility, and Greek-North Macedonian connection.

Poseidon overland section plan kept alive, PCI status sought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Alexandroupoli FSRU market test offers total 2.6 bcm, viability assured

Binding capacity reservations for the prospective Alexandroupoli FSRU in northeastern Greece, whose second-round market test expired on Tuesday afternoon, amounted to 2.6 bcm, a tally that secures the project’s sustainability and paves the way for a finalized investment decision, energypress sources have informed.

Two Greek utilities, gas company DEPA and power company PPC, are among the participants who have reserved capacities, for long-term periods, the sources noted.

Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz and a Serbian company also confirmed earlier requests for capacity reservations.

Romania’s Romgaz did not turn up for the market test’s second round after expressing interest for a considerable capacity covering a lengthy period in the first round. Instead, two private-sector Romanian trading companies ended up submitting binding offers for Alexandroupoli FSRU capacities.

The Bulgarian, Serbian and Romanian interest highlights the potential of the Alexandroupoli FSRU to serve as a new natural gas gateway for southeast European markets, via the Greek-Bulgarian IGB pipeline, now under construction, as well as other existing and planned gas pipelines in the region.

Alexandroupoli FSRU project sustainable, reservations show

A second-round market test offering capacity reservations for the prospective Alexandroupoli FSRU in northeastern Greece has drawn enough interest to ensure the project’s sustainability ahead of a final business decision, energypress sources have informed.

The deadline for this market test, a binding procedure, expires today following a ten-day extension granted in order to give Romania’s Romgaz more time to confirm the duration and quantity of its offer.

Romania has entered a period of political crisis after interim prime minister Ludovic Orban’s Liberal Party government was toppled in a no-confidence vote called by the main opposition last month. The coronavirus crisis has worsened the situation. Orban and his entire Cabinet have quarantined themselves after coming into contact with a senator who was later confirmed to have the coronavirus.

Greek gas utility DEPA and power utility PPC have reserved Alexandroupoli FSRU capacities for lengthy periods, the sources added.

Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz and a Serbian company are also believed to have confirmed earlier requests for capacity reservations.

The Bulgarian, Serbian and Romanian interest highlights the potential of the Alexandroupoli FSRU to serve as a new natural gas gateway for southeast European markets, via the Greek-Bulgarian IGB pipeline, now under construction, as well as other existing and planned gas pipelines in the region.

RAE given 5 months to set Kavala underground gas storage charges

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has been given five months to determine the pricing policy, regulated earnings and WACC for a planned underground gas storage facility at a depleted offshore gas field in the south Kavala region, according to an imminent joint ministerial decision, energypress understands.

The launch date of the project’s tender will depend on funding for project studies through the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) program. This essentially means that the privatization fund TAIPED will need to officially launch the project within the first half of this year to avoid missing out on CEF funds.

The project’s investment cost is estimated at between 300 and 400 million euros.

France’s Engie as well as Energean Oil & Gas and GEK-Terna have formed a three-member consortium named Storengy in anticipation of the tender. DESFA, the gas grid operator, is also expected to participate in the tender.

The project, promising gas storage capacity of 360 million cubic meters, is considered vital for Greece as it will be able to maintain strategic reserves for considerable time periods.

Its development will help boost the performance level and strategic role of the Revythoussa LNG terminal just off Athens, and the prospective Alexandroupoli FSRU in the country’s northeast, as these will be able to supply the wider region greater gas quantities via the IGB and TAP gas pipelines.

The south Kavala project has been classified as a PCI project, offering EU funding opportunities, seen as crucial for the investment’s sustainability, according to some analysts.

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

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

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

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

 

PPC, seeking gas market role, wants 500 bcm at FSRU in Alexandroupoli

Power utility PPC, seeking a strategic role in Greece’s natural gas market, intends to submit a capacity reservation offer to an ongoing Alexandroupoli FSRU second-round market test for approximately 500 million cubic meters per year.

PPC has reached a decision and is preparing to submit its offer within the next few weeks, energypress sources informed.

A capacity reservation at the prospective Alexandroupoli FSRU in Greece’s northeast is crucial for PPC following its recent failure to secure slots in 2020 for the LNG terminal on the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens.

PPC’s Alexandroupoli FSRU interest is driven by two objectives, firstly, to cover natural gas needs at its gas-fueled power stations, and secondly, to trade gas in the wholesale market, like the sector’s other major players. Besides the Greek market, PPC also sees gas trading opportunities in the wider region of southeast Europe.

PPC is determined to establish its place in a sector being transformed by the development of major trans-boundary projects, namely TAP and IGB. Domestically, the Alexandroupoli FSRU and an underground gas storage facility at a depleted offshore gas field in the south Kavala region also offer major potential for PPC.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU market test has generated considerable interest – unofficial until now – seen easily covering terms set to ensure the project’s sustainability before any finalized investment decision is made for development.

Greek gas utility DEPA, now holding a 20 percent stake in the Alexandroupoli FSRU consortium, will definitely seek to reserve capacity. Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz, also a 20 percent shareholder, will participate in the second-round market test seeking an annual capacity of between 300 to 500 million cubic meters, according to a Reuters report.

Many of the first-round market test’s 20 participants, plus a number of new faces, have emerged for the procedure’s binding second round, sources informed.

First round Alexandroupoli FSRU offers more than doubled a total capacity of 5.5 bcm to reach 12.2 bcm.

 

Drastic changes to reshape energy sector by end of 2020

Major developments in Greece’s energy sector, from lignite to natural gas, renewable energy, energy efficiency, as well as the geopolitical effects, promise a drastic reshape of the sector over the next year.

A first batch of power utility PPC’s existing lignite-fired power stations will have ceased operating as part of a plan for a full withdrawal by the end of 2023. PPC will have a reduced number of employees on its payroll. This will have positively impacted the utility’s profit figures.

Also, a first round of major renewable energy projects expected to be launched by PPC subsidiary PPC Renewables through partnerships, as part of the parent company’s wider turn to green energy, will intensify competition in the renewable energy market.

Furthermore, this time next year, assets currently belonging to gas utility DEPA, both in trade and infrastructure, may have been transferred to new owners. This development promises to reshape the entrepreneurial map as the private sector’s dominance will be absolute.

In the retail market, the number of players is expected to have diminished as a result of a new round of takeovers and mergers, amid heightened competition, as was also the case in telecommunications in the recent past.

In addition, Greece’s energy exchange will have clocked up several months of operations by the end of the year. Its arrival will intensify competition, remove market distortions and allow dormant potential to be realized through coupling with neighboring markets.

By the end of 2020, the TAP gas pipeline will have begun delivering its first orders of Azeri gas to Europe, the Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas pipeline will be nearing completion, while procedures leading to the development of the Alexandroupoli FSRU and an underground gas storage facility in the offshore area south of Kavala will have made progress.

Without a doubt, Greece’s energy sector appears to be waking up to the new reality, leaving behind anachronistic perceptions and embracing the green energy revolution. The country is now adopting new ways implemented by the overwhelming majority of European territories two decades earlier.

 

East Med, IGB, Alexandroupoli FSRU upgrading Greek role

Three major energy projects of international dimension, the East Med and IGB natural gas pipelines, as well as the Alexandroupoli FSRU (Floating Storage Regasification Unit), all once seeming distant prospects, are now gradually turning into a close reality.

Their development promise to transform Greece into an energy hub and upgrade the country’s geopolitical standing in the fragile southeast Mediterranean and Balkan regions.

The leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel are set to sign a trilateral agreement for East Med, to carry natural gas to Europe via these countries and Italy, at a meeting in Athens on January 2. The transmission capacity of this project, measuring 2,000 km, will range between 10 to 20 billion cubic meters. Italy is also expected to eventually join the partnership for this project.

Its development prospects have been further propelled by a decision from Poseidon, a 50-50 joint venture involving Greek gas utility DEPA and Italy’s Edison, to accelerate the completion of all pending issues needed for the project’s maturity.

The trilateral agreement promises to further bolster ties between Greece, Cyprus and Israel amid a period of heightened regional intensity. Turkish provocation has escalated. An East Med Gas Forum to take place in Cairo January 15 and 16 with participation from the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority should help expand the alliance.

The Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas pipeline is expected to have begun operating far sooner, in July, 2021. DEPA holds a 25 percent stake in ICGB, the consortium overseeing the IGB project, whose initial capacity will be 3 bcm. Through this pipeline, DEPA plans to supply the Bulgarian market with Azeri gas hailing from the TAP route, and, as a result, break, for the first time, the existing Russian monopoly in the neighboring market.

The IGB will not only be fed by TAP, running westwards across northern Greece for Azeri supply to Europe. The Alexandroupoli FSRU to be anchored off coastal Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, will also feed the IGB, enabling an alternative gas supply source for Bulgaria, other east European countries, and Ukraine.

DEPA is also involved in this project. The gas utility has just decided to acquire a 20 percent stake in Gastrade, the company developing the FSRU project in Alexandroupoli.

Leading Washington officials have expressed their support for the East Med, IGB and Alexandroupoli FSRU projects. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be seeking confirmation of this backing on an upcoming official trip to the US from President Donald Trump himself.

 

DEPA, pivotal for Greek energy plan, pushing ahead internationally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elpedison makes dynamic gas market move for 2020, Balkans also eyed

Elpedison’s strong turnout for gas grid operator DESFA’s annual reservation of LNG slots at the Revythoussa terminal just off Athens highlights the company’s strategic decision aiming for a leading role in the wholesale gas market, which it entered last year.

Elpedison has reserved 22 slots, roughly one-third of a total of 65 slots offered by DESFA for the terminal in 2020.

Mytilineos, the country’s biggest LNG importer, also booked 22 slots. Gas utility DEPA reserved 14 slots, while Heron booked seven slots.

Elpedison considers its involvement in the wholesale and retail gas markets just as important as its activities in the electricity market, chief executive Nikos Zahariadis underlined in comments to energypress. Elpedison will bolster its gas market presence in 2020, he added.

Storage and gasification capacity increases at the Revythoussa LNG terminal have played an instrumental role in helping liberalize Greece’s gas market. This development, along with lower-priced LNG, compared to pipeline gas, has created market prospects and opportunities. Elpedison operates two gas-fueled power plants.

Besides the Greek market, Elpedison, just like all other corporate groups importing and trading gas, also sees opportunities in Balkan markets. The company already sells modest gas quantities in Bulgaria and Romania but is aiming for a significant increase in 2020.

Greece is developing into a gas hub for supply to the wider southeast European region, Zahariadis, Elpedison’s chief executive, noted. Major international gas infrastructure projects such as the TAP, IGB, Alexandroupoli FSRU and underground gas storage facility in the offshore South Kavala region are expected to be completed within the next few years, he stressed.

 

IGB agreement, target model on agenda of minister’s Sofia visit

The signing of a Greek-Bulgarian bilateral agreement for the IGB gas grid interconnector, a project of major geopolitical significance, may be at the top of the agenda of the energy ministry leadership’s official visit to Sofia tomorrow and Thursday, but the target model, also on the agenda, is just as crucial.

The target model is vital as it entails the coupling of the Greek and Bulgarian electricity markets, needed for the establishment of regional electricity market, a key EU energy policy.

Given the Sofia trip’s demands, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis will be joined by his deputy Gerassimos Thomas.

Hatzidakis, on this trip, is expected to sign a bilateral agreement for the IGB gas pipeline’s construction and operation. A shareholders’ agreement and a European Investment Bank (EIB) loan agreement for the project are also planned to be signed.

The Greek-Bulgarian gas pipeline project, measuring 182 kilometers, will link Komotini, in Greece’s northeast, with Stara Zagora, creating a second interconnection point for the Greek and Bulgarian gas systems, in addition to an existing station in nearby Sidirokastro.

The new project, to offer an annual capacity of 5 billion cubic meters, will begin operating at a lower capacity level of 3 billion cubic meters.

The IGB pipeline is planned to be linked to the TAP project, running across northern Greece. Combined with the Bulgaria-Romania and Bulgaria-Serbia interconnections, the IGB will contribute to the establishment of a vertical corridor through the Balkans and connect central Balkan countries with Caspian gas supply.

IGB bilateral agreement for construction start to be signed in Sofia

A Greek-Bulgarian bilateral agreement enabling the commencement of construction work on the IGB gas grid interconnector is set to signed in Sofia during a two-day meeting scheduled for October 9 and 10.

Complementary agreements concerning the project, the most significant of these being a shareholders’ agreement and a loan agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB), will also be signed by officials over the two days.

The Greek-Bulgarian pipeline project, measuring 182 kilometers, will link Komotini, in Greece’s northeast, with Stara Zagora. It will serve as a second interconnection point for the Greek and Bulgarian gas systems, in addition to an existing station in nearby Sidirokastro.

The new project, to offer an annual capacity of 5 billion cubic meters, will commence operating at a lower level of 3 billion cubic meters.

The IGB pipeline is planned to be linked with TAP, running across northern Greece. Combined with the Bulgaria-Romania and Bulgaria-Serbia interconnections, the IGB will contribute to the establishment of the vertical corridor through the Balkans and connect central Balkan countries with Caspian gas and the TAP pipeline.

IGB’s planning, construction and operation has been taken on by ICGB, the project’s Sofia-based consortium, a 50-50 joint venture representing the state-controlled Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) and IGI Poseidon, involving Greek gas utility DEPA and Edison.

Balkans-focused energy forum on eve of Thessaloniki fair

Two key regional gas pipeline projects involving Greece and backed by the US, the Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas grid interconnection and a pipeline to link Greece and North Macedonia, will be at the center of attention in talks between energy minister Costis Hatzidakis and peers at the Southeast Europe Energy Forum in Thessaloniki on September 6, a day ahead of the opening of this year’s Thessaloniki International Fair.

Hatzidakis and the US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, will be key speakers at the forum, where speeches will also be delivered by the energy ministers of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Israel, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia.

Besides the prospective gas pipeline from Greece to North Macedonia, the talks between Hatzidakis and his North Macedonian peer will also focus on an upgrade of the electricity grid interconnection linking the systems of the two countries, as well as an upcoming relaunch of the Okta oil pipeline, stretching from an ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) facility in Thessaloniki to the company’s Okta refinery and storage facility in North Macedonia.

The gas pipeline is the most important project of the three as an interconnection of the Greek and North Macedonian gas systems does not exist.

The Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas interconnection, along with TAP, to carry Azeri natural gas through northern Greece, Albania and across the Adriatic Sea to central Europe via Italy, are Greece’s two most significant international energy projects.

They promise to further diversify Europe’s energy sources and weaken Russia’s dominance in the region.

Meanwhile, Russia is promoting its own energy and geopolitical interests in the region. Last month, Greece was excluded from Turkish Stream, a Russian-Turkish gas pipeline plan whose second segment is now planned to run through Bulgaria, not Greece.

The first segment of this gas pipeline project is planned to supply Russian natural gas to the Turkish market and the second to Europe’s south and southeast.

 

Continuation of energy strategy minister’s guide at Cairo forum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IGB tenders, moving fast, aim for winning bidders by May

Procedures leading to pipeline procurement and construction contracts through a tender concerning the Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas grid interconnector are progressing rapidly, the aim of the project’s officials being to announce the winning bidders by May and give the go-ahead for work to commence in June.

The project’s tenders are being staged amid a period of heightened geopolitical interest and activity in the Balkans, which has spurred hopes of the IGB’s completion and launch within the first half of 2020.

Greek energy minister Giorgos Stathakis and his Bulgarian counterpart Temenuzhka Petkova are expected to acknowledge the swift progress being made at a meeting in Sofia next Monday. They may even announce an even swifter schedule for the project’s completion.

ICGB, the IGB project’s consortium, is a joint venture involving YAFA Poseidon – a Greek gas utility DEPA half-owned subsidiary – and the state-controlled Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH).

Two of five candidates submitted bids just days ago to the second phase of a tender concerning the design, procurement and construction of the gas pipeline, a 182-km stretch budgeted at 145 million euros.

Greece’s J&P Avax and a rival consortium comprising Italy’s Bonatti and two Bulgarian firms, DZZD (IGB-2018), were the two bidding formations. Their technical proposals will now be assessed and offers unveiled in the effort to declare a winning bidder next month.

A pipeline supply tender budgeted at 60 million euros has also reached an advanced stage. Greece’s Corinth Pipeworks has entered this procedure and is up against a Turkish-Bulgarian consortium.

A preceding third tender for the role of project manager, to monitor the project on behalf of shareholders, has already produced a winning bidder, a consortium named TIBEI, whose 5.57 million-euro offer secured this contract.

TIBEI is comprised of Belgium’s Tractebel Engineering SA, Italy’s Tractebel Engineering SRL, Austria-based INTBER GMBH, as well as two Bulgarian firms, Ipsilon Consult OOD and Engineering EAD.

 

 

IGI Poseidon licensing procedures ‘ready by summer’

The prospective IGI Poseidon gas pipeline, planned to run though Greece’s north and across the Adriatic Sea to Italy as a supply route for Russian gas to Europe, is expected to be fully licensed by the summer, energypress sources have informed.

Regarded as an investment plan of major global interest, IGI Poseidon is now at the public consultation stage after years of preliminary work.

Its developers, the Greek gas utility DEPA and Italy’s Edison, are currently staging a public consultation procedure on the project’s environmental impact study. Interested parties have until March 27 to submit their views.

The Poseidon company intends to make final investment decisions once all licensing and market test procedures have been completed.

DEPA, Edison and Gazprom have signed a memorandum of cooperation to explore the possibility of the project’s link with Turkish Stream, planned to transmit Russian gas to the Greek-Turkish border. Officials are now also looking into whether the pipeline can be connected with East Med, to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli systems, and the Greek-Bulgarian IGB route.

Offers soon for IGB gas pipeline project tenders, nearing completion

Three tenders offering contracts for Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas grid interconnector’s project manager, pipeline procurement and construction are approaching completion.

Offers for the tender to appoint a project manager, to monitor development on behalf of shareholders, are expected this month.

Greece is well represented in the tender concerning the construction of the IGB pipeline, planned to cover a 182-km stretch and budgeted at 145 million euros. A total of five consortiums with three Greek firms on board have advanced to this tender’s second round.

Germany’s Max Streicher has teamed up with Greece’s Terna; China Petroleum Pipeline Engineering has joined forces with Aktor; and J&P Avax is the third local qualifier. Their bids are expected next week.

ICGB, the IGB project’s consortium, a joint venture involving YAFA Poseidon – a Greek gas utility DEPA half-owned subsidiary – and the state-controlled Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH), plans to have appraised these offers within a month before announcing a preferred bidder at the end of April.

The IGB is planned to be linked with the TAP route, offering Bulgaria and the wider southeast European region access to Caspian gas as well as LNG.

 

First round of crucial market test for Alexandroupoli FSRU launched

Shareholders at Greek gas company Gastrade, seeking to co-develop an FSRU project in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, will need to make final investment decisions following a market test, whose first round, entailing non-binding expressions of interest, was launched yesterday.

Binding bids, for FSRU capacity reservations, will be made in the procedure’s follow-up round.

Granted PCI status by the EU, the Alexandroupoli FSRU is being widely supported, politically, at national, European and cross-Atlantic levels.

Greek gas utility DEPA and Bulgaria’s BEH are both seen as market test certainties. Plans are now at advanced stages for both to each hold 20 percent stakes in a consortium for the Alexandroupoli FSRU’s development. Final approvals for the consortium entries of both are anticipated but still pending.

The emergence of other players, for FRSU capacity reservations, will be pivotal for the project’s development prospects. Gastrade and its project partners will be hoping to see the emergence of key international players aiming to supply gas to the wider region, including US gas exporters, firms associated with the prospective Greek-Bulgarian IGB link, including Serbian, as well as traders operating in the region.

For quite some time now, there has been talk of a US firm entering the Alexandroupoli FSRU consortium with a 20 percent stake. Cheniere has been named as a possibility but another undisclosed US contender is also believed to be in the running.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU consortium was initiated by Gastrade, a member of the Copelouzos group, before Gaslog, an international LNG carrier, also joined. At present, Gastrade holds a 40 percent stake and Gaslog holds 20 percent. DEPA and BEH are also expected to acquire respective 20 percent stakes, while any newcomer is expected to take on half of Gastrade’s current stake.

Agreements signed for IGB financing, TAP interconnection

Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have signed a Memorandum of Cooperation for the financing of the Bulgarian side of the Greek-Bulgarian gas grid interconnector (IGB), while, in a concurrent development, the IGB consortium and the TAP consortium, constructing the gas pipeline to carry Azeri natural gas through northern Greece, Albania and across the Adriatic Sea to Italy, have also signed an interconnection agreement to link the two pipelines.

Both agreements were signed at a meeting held by CESEC, the Central and South-Eastern European Gas Connectivity initiative. Greek energy minister Giorgos Stathakis, his Bulgarian counterpart, Temenuzhka Petkova, as well as other highly ranked EU officials attended the CESEC session.

The Greek energy ministry released an announcement underlining the significance of these two projects for Greece and the wider Balkan region. The IGB promises to carry gas transmitted through the TAP pipeline to the Bulgarian network as well as those of other EU member states, the energy ministry statement stressed.

The preliminary financing agreement between BEH and the EIB concerns a 110 million-euro loan with favorable terms to be guaranteed by the Bulgarian state.

Providing further backing, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov also signed a political agreement of support for the IGB interconnector in the presence of European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

The Greek and Bulgarian sides agreed to commence work on the IGB by the end of 2018 for an operational launch within 2020.

Rush needed to overcome IGB hurdles, stick to time frame

Greek and Bulgarian officials have admitted the prospective IGB gas grid interconnector, already well behind schedule, is facing new delays and issues. A rush will be needed to overcome various hurdles and stick to the project’s time frame.

Troubling news initially emerged from Bulgaria, when it was recently reported that  tenders for sub-contractors have been bogged down by legal action taken by firms not associated with the project’s development, including a winery.

ICGB, the IGB project’s consortium – involving the state-controlled Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) with a 50 percent stake, as well as DEPA, Greece’s public gas corporation, and Italy’s Edison with 25 percent stakes – has confirmed this news.

Despite noting that it expects this obstacle to be cleared within weeks, the consortium expressed concern of the emergence of similar issues in the future.

Earlier this month, the consortium announced the resignation of its chief executive Elio Ruggeri, who is now in charge of the LNG division at Italy’s Snam.

In comments offered this week, Bulgaria’s energy minister Temenuzhka Petkova insisted that the project’s current schedule remains valid. She also noted that EU funding worth 37 million euros and initially intended to finance a Bulgarian-Serbian interconnection could be redirected towards the IGB. The minister did not elaborate and offered no explanations as to how such a change of plan could impact the Greek-Bulgarian interconnection’s development and time frame. Petkova also informed that the IGB consortium could secure a more favorable financing agreement.

Her Greek counterpart Giorgos Stathakis, speaking at an Athens Energy Forum event yesterday, made reference to the IGB, noting its construction is expected to commence “within 2018”. Given the consortium’s most recent time frame, scheduling work to begin by this coming June, the project, it appears, is headed for a further delay.

Dimitris Tzortzis, the recently appointed chief executive officer at DEPA, Greece’s public gas corporation, believes work on the IGB will start in the third quarter this year. He described the project’s existing schedule as demanding. “We are depending considerably on continued full support from both the Greek and Bulgarian governments for the timely completion of related host government agreements,” Tzortzis commented.

The DEPA official added that he expects the IGB pipeline to begin operating in the second half of 2020.

The IGB interconnector, a project to measure 180 kilomteres in length and offer a 4.3 bcm capacity with upgrade options, is budgeted at approximately 220 million euros.

Plenty of preliminary work is still needed before the project’s development commences.

The IGB is receiving full political support from Greece, Bulgaria the EU and US. Combined with the TAP pipeline, to run horizontally across northern Greece, the IGB promises to serve as a vertical route for the wider region. TAP and IGB officials are currently engaged in advanced talks for an agreement to interconnect the two pipelines.

 

IGB construction, procurement tenders to be announced January

Development of the Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas grid interconnector is expected to commence in mid-2018 as documentation concerning two project tenders, one for construction, the other for pipeline procurement, has been finalized, according to sources.

Both tenders are expected to be announced in January, which would enable the project to begin midway through next year, as ICGB, the project’s consortium, currently plans.

A number of key institutions, including the European Investment Bank (EIB), have expressed an interest in the project’s financing. Participation by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) has not been ruled out.

The IGB is expected to be completed by 2020 along with TAP, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, a project to transport natural gas from the giant Shah Deniz II field in Azerbaijan to Europe, through a route crossing northern Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea, to southern Italy.

State-controlled Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) holds a 50 percent stake in the ICGB consortium, while DEPA, Greece’s public gas corporation, and Italy’s Edison control 25 percent stakes.

The IGB interconnector, a project to measure 180 kilomteres in length and offer a 4.3 bcm capacity with upgrade options, is budgeted at approximately 220 million euros.

Its development promises to offer Azerbaijani natural gas an alternative route into southeast European markets. Procedures are already in motion for an extension to Serbia. The project will also enable LNG supply to regional countries currently subject to limited gas supply and facing major energy security issues.

New leadership appointed at DEPA gas corporation

The two leading officials at state-controlled DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, have been replaced by new faces hailing from the private sector, the energy ministry, TAIPED, the state privatization fund, and ELPE, which holds a 35 percent stake in DEPA, have decided, it has been confirmed.

Theodoros Kitsakos, DEPA’s outgoing chief executive officer, has been replaced by Dimitris Tzortzis, who possesses an extensive track record in private-sector enterprises involved in networks and telecommunications, as well as public administration.

Velissarios Dotsis, who also hails from the private sector and, in addition, has worked at Enterprise Greece, a government-sponsored group promoting investment opportunities in Greece and exports, has been named the new DEPA president.

The gas corporation’s new leadership will need to tackle a wide range of issues, including development of international projects such as the Greek-Bulgarian IGB interconnector; the floating LNG terminal at Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece; matters concerning the Greek energy market’s liberalization; DEPA’s future role in the country’s retail natural gas marketl as well as the debt problems of two major-scale customers, ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals) and EBZ (Hellenic Sugar Industry).

Tzortzis, the new chief executive officer, is a graduate of the National Technical University of Athens, where he studied Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. His past work contracts have included a 14-year tenure at Intracom, spells at Attica Telecommunications, HOL, the secretary general post at EETT (Hellenic Telecommunications & Post Commission) between May, 2015 and April, 2016, when he resigned, as well as an Intralot subsidiary.

 

 

 

BEH to soon enter Alexandroupoli FSRU with 25% stake, deputy says

Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) expects to soon enter a consortium planning to develop a floating LNG terminal in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, with a 25 percent stake, the company’s deputy chief executive officer Severin Vartigov noted during a speech at Energy Academy, a recent conference staged by the Greek Energy Forum in Athens.

Vartigov described the Alexandroupoli FSRU and the Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas pipeline interconnection as complementary projects to contribute to source  diversification and supply security in the wider southeast European region.

BEH will acquire a 25 percent stake in the Alexandroupoli FSRU consortium as soon as a due dilligence procedure has been completed, the BEH official noted.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU plan was initiated by Gastrade, a member of the Copelouzos group, before Gaslog, an international LNG carrier, and, most recently, DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, also joined in. Besides BEH, Tellurian Energy, a US firm, has also considered entering the consortium.

Vartigov reminded that a construction permit for the IGB project’s Bulgarian segment was issued in September. He noted the project soon stands to secure additional EU funding worth 37.5 million euros for the increased level of competitiveness the project promises to offer.

The BEH deputy noted the IGB consortium is working intensively to ensure EU funding.

Vartigov told the conference the IGB interconnection will be completed and ready to operate by the end of 2019.

The Bulgarian official also expressed aspirations for development of a Serbian-Bulgarian gas pipeline interconnection. He described this plan as a low-cost project as Serbia has already been offered EU funding that would cover 60 percent of the cost of the segment covering Serbian territory. BEH is ready to cover the cost concerning the Bulgarian side, Vartigov said.

A Romanian-Bulgarian gas pipeline interconnection has been completed but, at present, can only flow one way, from south to north, as a result of low pressure hampering Romania’s natural gas grid, Vartigov noted. He said he is confident the Romanian government will soon install new compressors to boost the national gas grid’s pressure and enable reverse flow.

 

 

DEPA chief invites Serbia to take part in Alexandroupoli FSRU, IGB pipeline

The head official at DEPA, Greece’s Public Gas Corporation, has extended an invitation to Serbia for participation in major energy projects planned for the region, namely the Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas pipeline interconnection and a floating LNG terminal in Alexandropoli, northeastern Greece.

Theodoros Kitsakos, DEPA’s chief executive officer, asked Serbian officials for the country to become involved in these projects during a series of meetings in Serbia.

Kitsakos visited the neighboring country to take part in an ecomomic forum earlier this week, held to discuss regional energy developments.

The DEPA chief met with key Serbian officials, including the gas utility and energy ministry heads, as well as energy-sector entrepreneurs, as part of an effort to promote DEPA’s strategic plan for the wider region.

Speaking at the economic forum, Kitsakos stressed the considerable gas needs of the wider Balkan region and Europe, overall, require the utilization of additional supply sources.

European gas consumption requirements represent 13 percent of global demand but the continent’s gas deposits amount to just one percent of the world’s total supply, Kitsakos pointed out.

EU additional grant decision for IGB expected in first quarter of 2018

ICGB AD, the company engaged in the development of the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) project, currently has access to an approved European Energy Program for Recovery grant that may reach as much as 45 million euros, Teodora Georgieva, executive officer at the ICGB joint venture, has told Azerbaijani news ageny Trend

“Furthermore, the project’s company is involved in an ongoing application process for structural funds offering [additional] financing to Bulgaria and Greece, as the targeted additional grant financing to be obtained by both countries amounts to 39 million euros and 12 million euros, respectively,” said the executive officer.

The additional EU structural funds grant for Greece and Bulgaria is subject to evaluation by the European Commission and the final decision is expected in the first quarter of 2018, she added.

Georgieva noted that besides the approved grant financing and the open application for additional grant financing, the Bulgarian government has approved, in the adopted budget for 2017, a state guarantee of up to 110 million euros in negotiated borrowing for the ICGB project.

She recalled that an 80 million-euro state guarantee for the project was first approved in the 2015 state budget before being increased to 110 million euros in the 2016 state budget.

“The total investment cost of the project is estimated at approximately 240 million euros (excluding the value-added tax) out of which 220 million euros account for capital expenditures. The funds for the project are to be provided by a grant financing, shareholder loan / equity and external loan financing,” added Georgieva.

The IGB gas pipeline will enable supply to Bulgaria of Azerbaijani gas, especially gas produced by Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz 2 field. The IGB is planned to be connected to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), offering Shah Deniz field gas deliveries to European markets. TAP will run across Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea to Italy.

The initial capacity of IGB will be 3 billion cubic meters of gas.

Alexandroupoli FSRU project headed for PCI list reentry

The prospective floating LNG terminal in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, stands a serious chance of regaining its place on a list of EU Projects of Common Interest (PCI), the results of a latest regional working group meeting in Brussels have indicated.

The Greek government’s effort to put the Alexandroupoli floating storage regasification unit (FSRU) back on the PCI list, which would facilitate EU funding, is believed to have gained momentum. The project is now expected to be placed in a second-tier group of projects seeking entry into the PCI list and, from there, eventually be promoted to the main PCI list, an energypress source informed.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU, to be developed by Gastrade, is expected to gain further PCI credibility once plans to develop the nearby Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas interconnector have been finalized.

As was recently reported by energypress, a plan to transform a depleted natural gas deposit in south Kavala, northern Greece, into an underground gas storage facility has regained its place on a revised PCI list, released on June 30.

The south Kavala underground gas storage facility had been removed from the PCI list during a revision made two years ago.

All other infrastructure projects of Greek interest have retained their places on this revised PCI list. These include the Poseidon gas pipeline, planned to run from Greece to Italy, indicating that this project is a serious contender for a role in a prospective new route to carry Russian gas to Europe (Turkish Stream) as well as another major project to bring gas to Europe from the eastern Mediterranean (East Med).

The Euro Asia Interconnector, a submarine cable project to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli electricity networks, as well as East Med, a prospective gas pipeline to transmit gas from Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to mainland Greece via Crete, have also retained their places on the PCI list.

So, too, has the IGB, the Greek-Bulgarian Interconnector, for which a final investment decision is expected imminently.

Tesla, a prospective natural gas pipeline to offer a link from Greece to Austria, is also on the updated PCI list.

 

 

US envoy displays interest in Greek, Bulgarian energy cooperation

The US Department of State’s Acting Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, Mary Warlick, expressed a strong interest in Bulgaria’s regional gas interconnection projects, especially the IGB, to link Greek and Bulgarian gas transmission systems, during a meeting with leading Bulgarian government officials.

The developing energy partnership between Greece and Bulgaria, seen as crucial for energy security in southeast Europe, has drawn the attention of the USA amid its rivalry with Russia.

Besides Greek-Bulgarian energy cooperation, Warlick and the Bulgarian officials, Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zakharieva, also discussed other Bulgarain strategic plans in the energy sector, such as gas transmission interconnections with Turkey, Serbia and Romania.

In comments following the meeting, Zakharieva stressed that these projects are pivotal for energy supply diversification, not only for Bulgaria but the entire southeast European region.

Commenting on the Greek-Bulgarian IGB project, Zakharieva noted that the project’s development would enable a natural gas link between Europe’s north and south. Transmission of major Azerbaijani natural gas amounts, exceeding one billion cubic meters, would be possible once the Trans Adriatic pipeline begins operating, the Bulgarian official informed.

The IGB project also dominated a meeting in Sofia several days ago between Greek energy minister Giorgos Stathakis and his Bulgarian counterpart Temenuzhka Petkova. The two officials agreed on a final IGB market test to take place in autumn. Gas traders will be expected to submit binding bids for allocation of pipeline capacity.

Respective National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funding available to the two countries through the EU funding program has been ensured for the IGB project.