ExxonMobil drilling for gas off Crete may begin a year earlier

ExxonMobil could begin drilling at licenses offshore Crete a year earlier than planned as the American energy giant tends to adopt a more direct approach when exploring for natural gas, sector authorities have noted.

Such was the case at Cyprus’ Block 10, for which ExxonMobil conducted seismic surveys before skipping the 3D survey stage to go straight ahead with drilling that led to the discovery of the Glafkos deposit, the officials pointed out.

A consortium comprised of ExxonMobil and Helleniq Energy, formerly ELPE, holds licenses for two offshore Crete blocks, one west of the island, the other southwest. The consortium has commissioned PGS to conduct 2D seismic surveys at both these licenses. They are in full progress and are expected to be completed towards the end of January.

According their original plan, ExxonMobil and Helleniq Energy planned to follow up with 3D surveys at the end of 2023 or early in 2024. However, if ExxonMobil, the consortium’s operator, opts to skip the 3D surveys, initial drilling offshore Crete will begin sooner, in 2024, instead of 2025.

Elsewhere, in the Ionian Sea, a consortium made up of Helleniq Energy and Energean expects to have the results of 3D surveys at three blocks, Ionio, Kyparissiakos, and Block 2, by the end of 2023 or early in 2024. It will then decide if it will continue with initial drilling.


ELPE to seek Ionian Sea partner, Crete delayed by case

Hellenic Petroleum ELPE has successfully completed seismic surveys at offshore blocks in the Ionian Sea and the Gulf of Kyparissia, west of the Peloponnese, for which the company holds 100 percent exploration and exploitation rights, and once results have emerged, will seek to establish partnerships for these ventures, CEO Andreas Siamisiis noted yesterday.

The chief executive, who was speaking at ELPE’s official launch for a solar energy farm in Kozani, northern Greece, one of Europe’s biggest, informed that the group’s hydrocarbon exploration activities for potential natural gas deposits, part of the group portfolio, will focus on offshore areas and be accelerated.

The results of data collected through seismic surveys at the Ionian Sea and Gulf of Kyparissia blocks will now be studied, while 3D seismic data will also be collected, a procedure to require a further 12 months.

As for ELPE’s interests at Cretan offshore blocks, for which the company has formed a consortium with France’s Total and America’s ExxonMobil, surveys conducted have shown similarities with areas in the eastern Mediterranean, where major hydrocarbon discoveries have been made.

ELPE’s chief executive attributed delays affecting exploration work at the Cretan blocks to a legal case filed with the Council of State, Greece’s Supreme Administrative Court, targeting the venture’s environmental impact study. No serious company would continue exploring with such a legal case pending, Siamisiis noted.



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.

Repsol-Energean abandon rights for Etoloakarnania block

A consortium comprised of Spanish petroleum group Repsol and Energean Oil & Gas has surrendered its hydrocarbon exploitation and production rights for on onshore license in the Etoloakarnania area, northwestern Greece, the partners informed EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, last Friday, sources have revealed.

The partners attributed this decision to the sharp drop in oil prices that has made upstream investments unfeasible, as well as their environmental footprint efforts.

Repsol is also preparing to withdraw its interests from an offshore block in the Ionian Sea through a license it shares with Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE).

In addition, the Spanish group is reconsidering its interests in a license for an onshore block in Ioaninna, also in Greece’s northwest, sources informed. Repsol holds a 60 percent stake in this license, the other 40 percent belonging to Energean Oil & Gas. The partners face an April deadline for an investment decision concerning initial drilling.

Three months earlier, Repsol, through a strategic business plan covering 2021 to 2025, announced exploration and production investment cuts worth 700 million dollars, annually. The company plans to focus its activities in 14 countries, not including Greece.

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.

Hydrocarbons can push RES sector to next stage, new EDEY official says

The hydrocarbons industry will continue to play an important role in the energy mix until 2050, despite a shift in policies turning to renewable energy, and could also serve as a lever of support propelling the RES sector to its next stage, according to Aristofanis Stefatos, the newly appointed chief executive of EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company.

Stefatos and Rikard Skoufias, concurrently named new president of EDEY, offered their views on the upstream sector during questioning by Greek Parliament’s permanent committee on institutions and transparency.

The two men, both proposed by energy minister Costis Hatzidakis for the top EDEY jobs, officially assumed their roles following approval by the committee.

During questioning, committee members asked about the future of the hydrocarbons sector and licenses in Greece given the major decline in crude oil prices, as well as climate change policies being adopted.

Stefatos described the dip in crude oil prices as a temporary condition, noting the sector has experienced such situations in the past before rebounding. “It is only a matter of time before the same thing happens again,” he noted.

The two officials were also asked to comment on environmental protection issues, while Stefatos, the new chief executive, was asked to clarify on his position as shareholder of a Norwegian upstream company.

An offshore corridor running down from Albania into Greece’s EEZ has potential, while signs of a deposit in the area are encouraging, Stefatos told the committee. However, further 3D seismic surveys must soon be conducted in the area, he stressed.

Oil drilling plans on hold, forced by price collapse, pandemic

Preliminary hydrocarbon exploration work planned by oil companies at licenses in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete is being postponed for an indefinite period that could last as much as a year, possibly more.

Upstream players are revising plans as a result of the collapse in oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, a double setback for the sector.

Worse still, investment conditions for the Ionian Sea and Crete areas are made even more challenging by the fact that neither has yet to reveal sustainable fields.

In addition, both Greek zones are deep-sea areas of depths ranging from 2,500 to 3,000 meters, making exploration a high-cost venture.

Global oil majors are reducing investments and expenses by the billions in response to the unfavorable market conditions that have emerged over the past couple of months.

Fields with proven reserves have not been spared, which pushes untested fields such as those in Greece even further down the priority list.

The resumption of drilling ventures still at preliminary stages is not likely until oil prices rebound, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis noted in an interview with Greek daily To Ethnos.

It is a similar picture for Cyprus. The Eni-Total consortium yesterday announced it is postponing oil drilling activities in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone until March or April next year.

Ratification of Cretan, western offshore licenses just days away

Parliamentary approval of offshore hydrocarbon exploration and production licenses awarded for four fields west and southwest of Crete as well as Greece’s west is now just days away.

The submission of all four licenses to Greek Parliament by this Friday for ratification is seen as a very likely prospect.

The related draft bill carrying the four licenses will essentially represent the recently appointed energy ministry’s first legislative act.

A consortium comprised of Total, ExxonMobil and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) has been awarded two licenses for blocks west and southwest of Crete. Repsol and ELPE were the winning bidders of a tender for a block in the Ionian Sea.

Tenders for these three licenses were held following interest expressed in 2017.

ELPE is the sole participant in a license awarded for Block 10 northwest of the Peloponnese, following a tender launched in 2014.

Scientific surveys have confirmed many geological similarities between the two Cretan offshore blocks and southeast Mediterranean natural gas fields that have produced major discoveries such as Egypt’s Zohr, Cyprus’ Aphrodite and Israel’s Leviathan.

A clearer picture on the prospects of the Greek fields is expected in  eight years, the amount of time it should take to complete related exploration work. A first drilling operation is expected towards the end of this eight-year effort.

The presence of ExxonMobil and Total signals heightened US and French hydrocarbon interest in the wider southeast Mediterranean region.

Industry experts believe ratification of the four Greek licenses will spark further upstream developments in the wider region, including Greece. Preparations are underway for more offshore licenses, especially south of Crete, according to some sources.

Investors will ‘abandon Crete blocks if discoveries not significant’

Two offshore blocks west and southwest of Crete, licensed out just days ago to a three-member consortium comprised of Total (40%), ExxonMobil (40%) and Hellenic Petroleum-ELPE (20%), promise far greater production potential than blocks further north in the Ionian Sea, but investors will leave if these Cretan blocks do not offer significant output, a top-ranked official has noted.

Investors will abandon their efforts if a production target of at least 500 million barrels is not reached as the investment costs are considerable, Yiannis Basias, the head official at EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, told state-run radio Proto Programma.

He denounced environmental concerns being expressed, describing these as inexplicable, “unless the intention is to stop the exploration activity altogether.”

Hydrocarbon companies spend vast amounts of money to ensure the avoidance of problems as, besides affecting the environment, local economy and health of individuals, any accident would also instantly blacklist companies and trouble their futures, the EDEY chief highlighted.

Sizable discoveries promise to greatly change Greece’s image and standing in the southeast Mediterranean region, Basias remarked, adding that the country’s economy would gain some balance for a less burdensome future.

At present, economic gains generated by tourism are immediately offset by costs concerning  natural gas and crude costs, the EDEY chief said.

Heightened activity, consortium reshuffling as drilling nears

Following a wider trend observed in the southeast Mediterranean, consortiums holding hydrocarbon exploration and production licenses in Greek territory are moving to reshuffle their line-ups, especially for blocks in the Ionian Sea, as the first local drilling operations in decades draw nearer, energypress sources have informed.

The reshuffling activity, which has not involved blocks off Crete, has been attributed to a search by multinationals for additional partners in consortiums established with Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) as a means of reducing high costs demanded by deep-water exploration in the Ionian Sea.

ELPE holds exploration and production rights for various blocks in the Ionian Sea through consortiums established with Total, Edison and Repsol.

Video Data Rooms have been set up to enable prospective participants to view seismic survey data for Ionian Sea blocks, as well as technical and financial information.

The current reshuffling activity could produce new consortium line-ups by the end of the year, sources have informed.

Greece’s first drilling operation in several decades, at the Gulf of Patras, is expected to commence early next year. Positive results promise to provide further impetus for more drilling in Greek territory.


Hydrocarbon licenses on hold as a result of snap elections

The country’s ambitious hydrocarbon exploration and production plan appears set to be impacted by further delays as a result of the government’s call for snap elections, now expected to take place on July 7.

License agreements signed recently for offshore blocks in the Ionian Sea and west of the Peloponnese, will, as a result, not be pushed through for ratification in parliament until after the elections.

An Ionian Sea license has been acquired by a consortium comprising Repsol and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), while ELPE has also taken on Block 10, further south, west of the Peloponnese.

Licenses offered for blocks west and southwest of Crete to a consortium made up of Total, ExxonMobil and ELPE are also set to face delays as a result of the country’s political developments. The triple-member team will need to hold on for several more months before it can begin work at these promising spots. The consortium’s licences, still in the hands of a supervisory committee, have also yet to be ratified in parliament. No action on these is expected prior to the early general elections.

Procedures concerning the formation of a new government and the ensuing summer break will delay the ratification of these agreements until September, experts have estimated.

Investors looking forward to exploration work in the Ionian Sea and off Crete have become well acquainted with the slow-moving ways of Greece and are prepared to remain patient until this latest obstacle is cleared, pundits noted.

The country’s recent administrations have all moved slowly on hydrocarbon licensing matters.


EDEY to drum up Greek oil, gas hopes at Italy, Romania events

Spurred by recent significant gas field discoveries at Cypriot and Egyptian offshore blocks and the favorable prospects these have generated for the wider region, top officials at EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, will be looking to attract major foreign investors to new Greek blocks at two industry events in Italy and Romania.

EDEY chairman Yiannis Basias, who is in Ravenna, Italy today to attend the Offshore Mediterranean Conference & Exhibition, a leading industry event, will be exploring the potential interest of oil majors, including Italy’s ENI, for new offshore blocks in the Ionian Sea and off Crete to soon be licensed out.

EDEY chief’s deputy Spyros Bellas will follow up this effort in Bucharest at the Balkans & Black Sea Cooperation Forum, scheduled to take place April 4 and 5.

Tristan Aspray, ExxonMobil’s Vice President of Exploration for Europe, Russia, and the Caspian, hailed the wider region’s prospects at the recent Delphi Economic Forum in Greece. ExxonMobil is currently involved in exploration work being carried out in Romania.

Speaking earlier this month at London’s Global APPEX (Prospect & Property Expo), an event organized by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), Bellas, EDEY’s deputy, presented a road map of Greece’s hydrocarbon plans for 2019 to officials of foreign companies as well as latest and more detailed geological data on the Ionian Sea and Cretan regions. This data was processed by Norway’s PGS.

The strategy adopted at EDEY is to plan tenders for offshore blocks based on the interest expressed by foreign investors at this series of meetings.

Besides ENI and ExxonMobil, EDEY is seeking to convince Repsol, Shell and other US majors of Greece’s hydrocarbon prospects.



Repsol, ELPE nearing finalized deal for new Ionian Sea block

EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, and a consortium comprising Spain’s Repsol and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) have completed negotiations for exploration and production rights at a new Ionian Sea block on offer.

The two sides have delivered a draft agreement to the energy ministry. It will also be forwarded to a supervisory committee within the next few days for approval before being signed by all sides involved and submitted to parliament for ratification. The agreement could be finalized by the end of the month, sources informed.

The new Ionian Sea block, measuring 6,612 square kilometers, is the latest block to be offered to investors by EDEY following blocks southwest and west of Crete that were made available in the summer of 2017 through international tenders.

As has been previously reported, Energean Oil & Gas’s early interest in this new Ionian Sea block prompted the latest procedure. Energean, operating Prinos oil fields in Greece’s north as well as Israel’s Karish and Tanin gas fields, ended up not submitting an offer for this Ionian Sea block. Instead, Repsol and ELPE emerged with a joint bid.

Repsol, which has developed into an exploratory force in western Greece and the Ionian Sea, is pressuring for a swift bureaucratic procedure in order to commence seismic survey work at the new block.

Repsol also jointly holds onshore licenses, with Energean as its partner, in northwestern Greece’s Ioannina and Etoloakarnania regions.

EDEY set to deliver opinion on Crete, Ionian hydrocarbon contracts

EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, plans to forward, to the energy ministry, a study evaluating details of contracts for three hydrocarbon licenses in the Ionian Sea and off Crete between late April to early May, energypress sources have informed.

Early in March, two consortiums submitted bids for three blocks to international tenders. Total-ExxonMobil-ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) submitted offers for two blocks west and southwest of Crete. Repsol-ELPE made an offer for the Ionian Sea block.

The EDEY study is focused on technical, legal and financial aspects of the contracts prepared. It is a mandatory step before the participants may be declared prefered bidders.

Once the green light is given, the Greek State will be able to commence licensing negotiations with the consortiums. The aim is to finalize procedures within the next few months, which will clear the way for investments and exploration work.

Both the Greek government and local hydrocarbon sector are placing great emphasis on this specific effort as the interest expressed by ExonMobil, Total and Repsol has raised hopes of potential hydrocarbon discoveries.

Turnout for Crete, Ionian Sea blocks lower than expected

The turnout by petroleum firms for an international tender offering hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation rights to three offshore blocks off Crete and in the Ionian Sea was lower than had been anticipated by Greek authorities. The deadline for offers expired Monday.

Without a doubt, the stature of participating consortiums – Total, Exxon and Mobil, Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) as well as Repsol-ELPE – which submitted respective offers for the Crete and Ionian Sea blocks, cannot be disputed, but the early interest expressed by other players expressed was not followed through.

The reduced competition is expected to subdue the price level of offers made. Had more than one consortium submitted offers for each of the blocks on offer, higher bids, as well as revenues for the Greek State, would have been generated.

Total, Exxon Mobil and ELPE submitted bids for the two Cretan blocks, west and southwest of the island, while ELPE – Repsol delivered a bid for the one Ionian Sea block offered.

The early interest of Total, Exxon Mobil and ELPE in the Cretan offshore area prompted EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, to stage the tender for the Crete blocks.

Energean Oil & Gas, whose preliminary interest in the Ionian Sea prompted the Ionian block tender, did not turn up. Sources attributed this absence to two factors – the petroleum firm’s focus on Israel, where it has assumed development of the Karish and Tanin fields, as well as a 500 million-dollar equity raising endeavor, through a premium listing on the London Stock Exchange’s Main Market, to support its Karish and Tanin projects.

Other noteable absentees included Italy’s Eni, Israel’s Delek, as well as US firm Noble. The geological risk of the areas offered – especially the Cretan blocks, categorized as unexplored deep-sea frontier areas – was cited as a factor. So, too, was the relatively low price of oil (63 dollars per barrel), which cannot justify the required investment costs. The lack of any major deposit discovery in Greece, such as the Aphrodite hydrocarbon field in Cyprus and the Zohr field in Egypt, has also been cited as a contributing factor behind the subdued turnout.

The problems encountered by Eni in the Cypriot EEZ as a result of the interruption of a drilling attempt by Turkish naval forces at a license held by the Italian firm, is believed to have kept it away from the tender offering Cretan and Ionian Sea blocks.

Oil majors set for Crete block offers, milder Ionian interest

With just days remaining before deadlines for tenders offering exploration and exploitation rights at a total of three offshore blocks off Crete and in the Ionian Sea, five petroleum firms, including three international oil majors, took part in an exploration security-related meeting held by EDEY (Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company) yesterday, which suggests they will be submitting offers.

Exxon Mobil, Total and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), whose interest in the Greek market prompted EDEY to offer two offshore blocks off Crete, Repsol, following developments for Ionian Sea investments, and Energean Oil & Gas, whose interest in the Ionian Sea area led to the other EDEY tender, all participated in the hydrocarbon company’s meeting, ahead of the deadines for the three tenders, expiring this coming Monday.

The interest expressed by investors for the two Cretan offshore blocks appears to be greater.

Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek, which have visited a related virtual room set up for the tenders by EDEY for information, were not represented by any officials at yesterday’s meeting. It remains to be seen whether these absences mean that the two firms will not submit offers on Monday.

At this stage it appears that a three-member consortium made up of Exxon Mobil, Total and ELPE, as well as Italy’s Eni, already active in Cyrpus, will submit offers for the Cretan blocks. A third offer from Noble and Delek would come as a surprise.

Eni recently had to deal with Turkish intervention in Cypriot waters, which has delayed the firm’s drilling plans for that area.

As for the one Ionian Sea block being offered, Spain’s Repsol has displayed a consistent interest, despite negative reactions by local authorities and citizens against nearby exploration work, with Energean, in the Ioannina area, northwestern Greece.

In an Oil & Gas Journal article published last month, two EDEY officials informed that areas west and southwest of Crete have shown serious signs of deposits.

The northwest part of the Ionian Sea, the location of the third block being offered, has also shown hydrocarbon potential as it shares similar geological characteristics with the southeast Adriatic Sea, already producing.





Data room for Ionian Sea, Crete offshore blocks now ready

EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, has prepared a virtual data room set up to offer prospective bidders information on Cretan and Ionian Sea offshore blocks that will soon be offered through international tenders.

Prospective bidders will be permitted access to the data room, containing information on matters such as seismic, drilling and legal issues, as soon as the tender is published in the EU’s official journal, the OJ. Publication is expected soon.

Bidders, who will be charged a 1,000-euro data room entrance fee, will use the information provided to prepare bids for two international tenders offering licenses west and southwest of Crete as well as the Ionian Sea.

Besides a data room for Athens, equivalent rooms have been set up in London, Oslo, Kuala Lumpur and Houston.

Investors will have 90 days to submit their bids once the tenders are officially announced in the OJ. The appraisal period of offers is scheduled to last two months.

Licenses are then expected to be issued within a three-month period. Once approved by a special committee and Parliament, these licenses will offer investors 8-year terms for exploration and 25 years for production.

A consortium comprised of Total, ExxonMobil and ELPE has already declared an interest for blocks west and southwest of Crete. Energean Oil & Gas is interested in the Ionian Sea offerings.



EDEY promoting new Crete-Ionian tender, now ‘imminent’

An official announcement of a new international tender to offer exploration and exploitation rights for  blocks off Crete and in the Ionian Sea could be announced withn the current week, energy minister Giorgos Stathakis suggested yesterday.

The minister was responding to a question as to why yesterday’s signing of an agreement between the Greek State and a consortium comprised of ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), Total and Edison for the rights to offshore Block 2, west of the Ionian island Corfu, did not coincide with an announcement of the new Crete-Ionian Sea tender, as had been anticipated by certain officials.

Bureaucratic procedures in Brussels are believed to have held up the process.

EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, is already preparing for the announcement with a promotional campaign, already in progress.

Just over a week ago, EDEY’s deputy chief Spyros Bellas attended an AAPG/SEG (American Association of Petroleum Geologists/ Society of Exploration Geophysicists) international conference and exhibition held in London, to head a Greek booth.

It drew considerable attention from investors. Some 25 presentations were made to international oil companies, including Noble Energy, Anadarko Petroleum and Chevron.

Bellas, the EDEY deputy, is scheduled to return to London next week for a private oil industry meeting, held every three months and involving highly-ranked industry authorities. Information is exchanged and new partnership and investment opporunities are explored at these meetings. Next week’s oil scouters session will focus on southern Europe and north Africa.

The imminent Crete-Ionian Sea international tender was prompted as a result of an interest expressed by two consortiums, ELPE-ExxonMobil-Total and Repsol-Energean.

EDEY is aiming to broaden the interest and create conditions that could lead to fiercer bidding for exploration and production licenses.


ELPE, Total, Edison sign deal for Corfu Block 2 exploration

A consortium comprised of ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), Total and Edison signed an exploration and exploitation license agreement with the Greek State in Athens today for offshore Block 2, west of the Ionian island Corfu.

Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis described the deal as a turning point and vote of confidence for the Greek economy.

He also spoke of a wider interest in the area by major players, adding that a new tender offering another offshore block in the Ionian Sea, as well as blocks south and southwest of Crete, would soon be published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJ).

The energy minister took the opportunity to inform that gradual progress is being made on a renewed tender planned to offer 17 offshore blocks that failed to draw investor interest through an initial effort.

“Conditions are now different. The east Mediterranean has found itself at the center of attention, a development that bolsters the significance of today’s agreement,” Stathakis remarked.

He highlighted the knowhow and elevated technological ability possessed by the Block 2 consortium members.

Officials representing all three consortium members at today’s signing ceremony noted they have high expectations for Block 2.

Total’s Bernard Leman, in charge of the French company’s Caspian and south European operations, pointed out that Block 2 could develop into a very beneficial field for the Greek economy and boost the local hydrocarbon market’s future development.

The signing ceremony, organized by the energy ministry, was hosted at the new National Library building in coastal southern Athens. Attendants included French ambassador to Greece Christophe Chantepy and his Italian counterpart Efisio Luigi Marras.


New hydrocarbon technologies ‘boosting sustainability’

The Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company (EDEY) is examining the prospect of staging more international tenders, driven by the belief that new technologies are making related investments sustainable despite lower petroleum prices, the company’s chief executive Yiannis Bassias has told industry publication GeoExPro.

Offshore areas southwest of Crete and in the Ionian Sea represent a stable part of the wider east Mediterranean region, compared to other troubled areas, Bassias stressed in the interview.

The Zohr (Egypt) and Aphrodite (Cyprus) natural gas field discoveries in the east Mediterranean have established Greece’s western flank as a key center of oil investor interest, he added.

The EDEY chief pointed out that a plan to reprocess seismic data promises to unlock mineral resources in the country’s offshore areas.

Bassias noted that 12,500 square kilomoters of 2D seismic data collected by Norway’s PGS in 2012 is being reprocessed. The first batch of results is expected within the current month, further findings are expected in January, while the entire reprocessing initiative should be completed next June, the EDEY head informed.

The company is also considering collecting new 3D seismic data in the Ionian Sea’s north, including west and south of Corfu, Bassias informed. He expressed support for the collection of more detailed data in an area south of Crete covering 4,000 square kilometers.

Greece’s western side has emerged as a strategically significant corridor, as is highlighted by the number of natural gas pipelines hosted in the area, such as the TAP project, now being constructed and planned to run across northern Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea to Italy, the EDEY chief noted.

Bassias admitted that oil exploration ventures off Crete remain a high-risk investement promising high returns.

Inspection committee endorses ELPE-Total-Edison’s Ionian deal

A local committee examining an Ionian Sea-Block 2 hydrocarbon exploration agreement between the energy ministry and a consortium comprised of ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), Total and Edison has completed its work, enabling the investment plan to proceed, energy minister Giorgos Stathakis has told Skai news.

The ELPE-Total-Edison consortium was declared the preferred bidder for this offshore block almost a year ago, last October. Then, in March, the energy minister prepared the agreement reached signed between the two sides, but its approval by an inspection committee was still pending.

This part of the procedure was delayed, prompting Total’s leadership to point out the matter during a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and French entrepreneurs who joined President Emmanuel Macron on his official two-day visit to Athens last week.

Greek Parliament still needs to offer its approval before the Block 2 hydrocarbon exploration agreement is finalized. The government plans to soon submit the agreement to parliament, sources informed.

The Tsipras-led coalition wants the Ionian Sea-Block 2 agreement finalized within 2017 as this would serve the administration’s claims of a positive investment climate being shaped in Greece.

Initial PGS seismic survey reprocessing results anticipated within September

A reprocessing initiative taken by EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, for older seismic survey data collected by Norway’s PGS in the Ionian Sea and off Crete, covering a total of 12,500 square kilometers, is expected to produce its first results this month, the hydrocarbon company has announced.

EDEY has signed a data reprocessing agreement with PGS, which will strive to complete the project by June, 2018. Once obtained, the reprocessed data should enable the Greek State to provide more detailed information to prospective hydrocarbon investors and, ultimately, increase the likelihood of successful exploration ventures by oil companies.

More sophisticated equipment, offering clearer pictures of existing data and the aforementioned submarine areas, is being applied in the reprocessing effort.

In addition, EDEY is now conducting preliminary work for 3D seismic surveys covering 2,000 square kilometers in the northern part of the Ionian Sea, southwest of Corfu, while densification of existing 2D data is planned for areas south of Crete and south of the Peloponnese, covering a total of 4,000 square kilometers.

Tenders stir up interest amid survey purchase complaints

Licences to be offered by the Greek State for exploration and exploitation of offshore blocks in the Ionian Sea and off Crete now appear to be drawing wider attention following an initial interest displayed by investors that prompted authorities to organize three tenders.

However, prospective investors are believed to be discontent with a term requiring them to purchase existing seismic surveys. The terms of the upcoming tenders were recently published in the local gazette.

Initial interest expressed by a consortium comprised of ExxonMobil, Total and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) for two blocks off Crete, one southwest, the other west, led authorities to announce a tender, while Energean Oil & Gas got the ball rolling for a third tender offering an Ionian Sea block.

Though new firms now entering the picture have yet to be named, authorities have noted that these are mid-scale and large-scale enterprises which have eyed the Greek market in the past.

Shell, Japex, Dana Petroleum, INA and Hunt are believed to be among the oil companies maneuvering ahead of the tenders.

The sale procedures are expected to be launched towards the end of September, when published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Investors will then have 90 days to submit their offers. Greek authorities will push for the appraisal procedure of offers to have been completed by early 2018.

Prospective investors have expressed objections against a term requiring all participants to purchase existing seismic surveys concerning their respective areas of interest. PGS has conducted surveys covering 12,347 square kilometers of offshore Greek territory.

A number of sources told energypress that investors should have the right to conduct their own seismic surveys and then purchase the PGS data as additional information only if needed.

It is estimated that the cost of purchasing seismic surveys concerning the Ionian Sea block is roughly two million euros, while the price tag for the seismic surveys linked to the two blocks off Crete is estimated at five million euros.



Crete, Ionian oil exploration tender officially announced

Greek authorities have officially announced an international tender offering exploration and exploitation licenses for offshore blocks west and southwest of Crete.

The tender was prompted by investment interest expressed in the aforementioned areas by a consortium comprised of ExxonMobil, Total and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum).

As was expected, leasing agreements will be offered to investors. Taxation rates of 20 percent will be included in the terms, along with a 5 percent regional tax.

According to the international tender’s terms, bid appraisals will be processed over 60 days and agreements signed 60 days after this stage has been completed. This essentially means that the procedure should be completed at the end of this year, or, possibly, early in 2018, assuming no extraordinary delays.