Greece must back US in Europe’s energy battle, ambassador tells

Greece will need to pursue its energy policies in accordance with American regional priorities and interests or else be viewed as a rival force, the Barack Obama-nominated US ambassador to Greece Geoffrey R. Pyatt noted yesterday at a local industry event, the Athens Energy Forum. The US and Russia are currently maneuvering natural gas supply control in Europe.

Though expressing support for Greece’s aspiration to become a regional energy hub, as indicated by his firm backing for the development of projects such as the TAP and IGB pipelines, as well a floating LNG unit in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, all of which will help boost non-Russian gas supply, including American, to Europe, Pyatt made clear the US’s opposition to the development of the ITGI pipeline, planned to transmit Russian natural gas to Europe via Greece and Italy.

The ITGI project is being discreetly supported by the Greek government, DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, and Edison, along with Russia’s Gazprom.

Pyatt also reminded, in a less direct fashion, that the US possesses a number of alternatives to get its LNG to European markets. He made reference to a new LNG terminal in Lithuania, one of the gateways available to the US, along with Turkey – as highlighted by a recent LNG delivery to the country by US LNG trader Cheniere – and Poland, receiving strong US support for a major LNG terminal.

Greece will need American support to develop its LNG terminal plan in Alexandroupoli, part of the strategy that would help transform the country into a regional energy hub.

Not surprisingly, the US ambassador devoted a significant part of his speech at yesterday’s Athens conference to explaining why America believes Russia’s natural gas transmission plans for Europe should not be reinforced by third parties.

Pyatt made numerous references to the EU’s intention to end its heavy reliance on Russian natural gas, noting that this represents a golden opportunity for the US to ship in LNG tankers to the continent. Despite the high expectations, the results have been subdued so far.

Gazprom has already made a move to reserve TAP capacity as part of its natural gas transmission plans to Europe. This initiative has been met with cautious optimism, and, in some cases, approval by TAP consortium members. The Russian energy giant’s initiative has, as expected, provoked a negative US reaction.




ITGI route revived as DEPA, Gazprom, and Edison sign memorandum

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the development of a natural gas pipeline to link Greece and Italy and serve as a route for supply of Russian gas to Europe through the Southern Corridor was signed yesterday evening by the chief executives of Gazprom, Edison, and DEPA, Greece’s Public Gas Corporation – Alexey Miller, Marc Benayoun, and Theodoros Kitsakos, respectively.

The signing cermenomy took place in Rome following a meeting between Miller and Federica Guidi, Italy’s economic development minister.

The Greek Foreign Ministry’s Secretary General for International Economic Relations, Giorgos Tsipras, a cousin of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, attended the signing ceremony.

The memorandum of understanding, indicating an intended common line of action, reflects the interest of all three sides to develop infrastructure that may carry Russian natural gas through the Black Sea, via transit countries, to Greece and then Italy.

The interested parties plan to utilize, to the greatest degree possible, work already completed by DEPA and Edison for the sidelined ITGI Poseidon project.

DEPA and Edison had originally established Poseidon as a joint venture in the previous decade to develop the ITGI pipeline, planned to carry Azeri natural gas from Turkey to Greece and then Italy, via a submarine crossing through the Adriatic Sea. However, the the plan was abandoned after Azerbaijan opted to develop the TAP (Trans-Adriatic Pipeline) project instead for this purpose.

“The revival of the ITGI Poseidon project reinforces Europe’s energy security with an additional supply route and upgrades Greece’s important role as a significant natural gas gateway, via diversified sources and routes,” remarked Kitsakos.

Ministers to discuss older matters as ‘Greek Stream’ stalls

Greek Stream, the local segment of Russia’s latest natural gas pipeline proposal for Europe’s southeast, was originally planned to be the main topic of a meeting in Moscow this week between Greece’s energy minister Panos Skourletis and his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak, but last week’s downing of a Russian SU 24 fighter jet by Turkish forces has placed Russia’s thoughts of developing the project on hold.

The prospective natural gas pipeline, unofficially dubbed both Greek Stream and Turkish Stream, has been envisioned to run from the Greek-Turkish border area and across Greece’s north. Thoughts of utilizing ITGI, a pipeline project long endorsed by the European Commission and planned to cross the Adriatic Sea from Greece to Italy, as an extension of the Russian plan, had recently increased the likelihood of Greek Stream being developed through this route rather than a vertical Balkan crossing, until last week’s Turkish attack on the Russian jet. Consequently, Russia’s latest gas pipeline proposal for the region may end up being shelved, just like its previous plan, South Stream.

Russian officials have already announced that the pipeline, as well as development of a Russian-backed nuclear station, will both be stalled in reaction to the Turkish attack.

As a result, Skourletis and Novak are now expected to focus on other matters that primarily concern electricity production, as well as natural gas supply matters that remain unresolved. These subjects were discussed at a recent Greek-Turkish working group in Athens as well as by a Greek-Russian interministerial committee in Sochi last week.

According to sources, Russian companies have already expressed interest in the development of energy projects in Greece, especially in the field of electricity production. Russian companies, interested in constructing new power stations and revamping exisiting facilities, have asked to be updated on tenders to be staged.

Forgotten ITGI gas pipeline project ‘now back in the picture’

Wider regional energy developments have restablished the prospect of a Greek-Italian ITGI pipeline, Spyros Paleogiannis, CEO at DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, remarked yesterday, confirming a previous energypress report on the forgotten project’s increased chances for revival.

The ITGI project, planned to link the Greek and Italian pipeline networks, was sidelined after Azerbaijan opted for the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) project to carry the country’s natural gas supply to central Europe, via northern Greece, Albania, and across the Adriatic to Italy.

However, besides Russia’s current interest to develop a new pipeline in southeast Europe for supply of its own natural gas to central Europe through a similar route, other ongoing developments – such as the anticipated return of Iran to international energy trade following the likely end of western-imposed sanctions, expected to be lifted early next year, as well as possible natural gas supply to the area from Iraq, Turkmenistan, and the southeast Mediterranean, through the prospective East Med pipeline – have all brought back the ITGI plan as a real prospect, Paleogiannis noted.

The ITGI project could be linked with Russia’s latest pipeline plan for southeast Europe, informally dubbed “Turkish Stream”, planned to run west to Italy via the Greek-Turkish border region.

Late last month, as energypress had reported, Gazprom’s CEO Alexey Miller traveled to Milan for a meeting with Edison’s managing director Bruno Lescoeur. The two officials and deputies discussed southern corridor developments and Russia’s plan to supply natural gas to central Europe via Greece and Italy.

Russia appears to be abandoning a pipeline plan for supply to central Europe via a vertical route running through Greece, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom), Serbia and Hungary following various problems encountered, and instead focusing its interest on the supply route through Greece and Italy.

The ITGI plan has already been granted an EU permit and construction could “begin tomorrow morning,” as Paleogiannis pointed out. However, Russia and Turkey would need to resolve their differences on “Turkish Stream”.

The developments are being viewed favorably by the Greek government and its energy ministry as they promise to significantly Greece’s geopolitical standing.