Ministry official to hold strategic energy talks in Washington

Strategic opportunities emerging as a result of the Greek energy market’s ongoing transformation as well as the geopolitical significance of certain major projects, such as the Southern Gas Corridor, intended to diversify Europe’s gas sources and reduce the continent’s dependency on Russian gas, will be discussed by the energy ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou with American officials during her visit to Washington this week.

The Greek official, travelling to Washington today, plans to hold discussions covering the entire range of energy policy issues, from new RES technologies, hydrogen, the energy mix, as well as investments of geopolitical nature, including Balkan gas interconnections, the Alexandroupoli FSRU project in northeastern Greece, the underground gas storage (UGS) facility at the almost depleted gas field of South Kavala in the Aegean Sea’s north, as well as Greece’s role as a regional hub for energy source and route diversification.

Inevitably, the talks will also cover the current energy crisis troubling the world, especially Europe.

US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm has directly criticized Moscow for deliberately subduing its gas supply to Europe in order to manipulate the energy market and pressure Brussels for approval of Nord Stream 2, an underwater gas pipeline directly connecting Russia with Germany through the North Sea.

Certain countries that stand to lose significant gas transit revenues oppose this new pipeline. It has also generated years of conflict between Berlin and Washington. Nord Steam 2 has almost been completed and is now undergoing trial runs.

Europe is heavily dependent on Russian gas, while some countries in central and eastern Europe, including the Balkans, are almost entirely dependent. The US is seeking the greatest possible share for supply of American LNG.

More energy price hikes feared as Europe searches for solution

Another round of record-breaking energy price increases throughout the continent could be looming. Europe is primarily placing its hopes on an increase of Russian gas supply, which would greatly ease the ongoing price ascent, but, for the time being, energy prices are continuing to rise at unfathomable rates.

Under the currently alarming conditions, shaped by an unfavorable combination of international market trends, including main supplier Russia’s subdued gas supply to Europe, Dutch TTF hub futures for November contracts are set to once again reach levels of 160 euros per MWh. This would skyrocket wholesale electricity prices to 350 euros per MWh, a 70 percent increase on the current record level of 204 euros per MWh and 300 percent higher than a year ago.

Russia has cut back on its gas supply to Europe as a means of pressuring the EU for approval of its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, running through the North Sea to Germany. The project is opposed by some EU members as they would lose significant sums in transit revenues.

The EU has been left without a Plan B and greatly dependent on Russian gas supply for a number of reasons, including a gas reserve drop in many countries due to the summer’s prolonged heatwave, as well as increased LNG demand in Asia.

In Greece, roughly 50 percent of the country’s electricity generation is produced by natural gas-fired power stations, meaning gas price levels directly impact electricity prices.

 

Crisis Management Committee to examine supply security

The Crisis Management Committee is expected to meet within the first fortnight of October to examine the overall situation in the energy market, driving price levels up to exorbitant levels for consumers of all categories.

The committee’s members will discuss the issue of supply adequacy and security for meeting electricity generation needs, primarily.

Electricity, natural gas and CO2 emission prices are skyrocketing, while natural gas shortages are now emerging in EU markets, all as a result of an extraordinary combination of developments in European markets.

For the time being, Greek energy sector authorities – RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy; DESFA, the gas grid operator; and IPTO, the power grid operator – have remained reassuring. Yesterday, RAE president Athanasios Dagoumas noted: “We are not in a state of alarm but are vigilant.”

Overall natural gas consumption is expected to increase in 2021. Consumption was 14 percent higher in the first half compared to the equivalent period a year earlier, DESFA data has shown.

Gas demand rose in July and August to meet increased electricity generation needs and is also expected to be elevated this coming winter.

In Greece, approximately 60 percent of natural gas consumption results from electricity generation. The ongoing withdrawal of coal-fired power stations and greater reliance on fluctuating RES output is expected to lead to a further increase in demand for natural gas.

Local authorities have pointed to Greece’s natural gas source diversification, made possible by the Revythoussa LNG terminal and TAP, both offering alternative solutions, as crucial in the effort to manage the current energy crisis.

Motor Oil aims for ‘Dioryga Gas’ FSRU market test by November

Petroleum group Motor Oil aims to launch a market test for its “Dioryga Gas” FSRU project, 1.5 km southwest of the company’s refinery in Korinthos, west of Athens, by November, as just one pending issue, approval of project guidelines by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, now remains before the test can be staged.

The market test will be staged to measure the level of utilization interest in this floating unit by potential users.

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

The market test will be conducted over two stages, an initial round of non-binding offers reserving FSRU capacities, followed by a second round of binding offers.

Besides the project’s commercial matters, progress is also being made on the technical front. The project’s Front End Engineering Design (FEED) plans are expected to be completed early next year, while the infrastructure’s environmental licensing procedure is in progress.

The FSRU is planned to feature four LNG storage tanks with a total capacity of between 130,000 and 180,000 cubic meters, as well as a regasification unit with a capacity of 300-500 cubic meters per hour for an annual regasification capacity of 2-3 bcm.

The unit is also planned to be hydrogen-compatible.

Factors pushing up gas prices, economic activity threatened

A combination of market conditions and structural matters has unbalanced natural gas markets throughout Europe, driving prices higher, which is severely impacting electricity prices.

Recovering economies following pandemic-induced flatness, combined with a policy applied by Russia, Europe’s main supplier, to significantly restrict gas outflow to the continent, has created energy crisis conditions.

In mid-August, Russian gas outflow through the Yamal pipeline, running across Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany, has not exceeded 20 million cubic meters per day, following levels of as much as 49 million cubic meters per day just weeks earlier, still well under usual levels averaging 81 million cubic meters per day.

According to analysts, this reduction has been attributed to Gazprom’s preference to supply Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, bypassing Ukraine and Poland.

LNG supply to Europe has also fallen in recent times as Asian countries appear more willing to pay higher prices.

In addition, prices are also being impacted by EU climate-change policies designed to limit the use of fossil fuels, lignite as well carbon emissions, all of which has greatly increased demand for natural gas, not only in Europe, but Asia and the US, too, pushing up prices to levels of 48 euros per MWh in recent days.

Natural gas shortages have driven wholesale electricity prices higher. In Germany, for example, wholesale electricity prices have risen by 60 percent over the past year. In Spain, the government has reduced energy consumption taxes in an attempt to subdue the wave of price rises.

The situation in the energy market is extremely worrying as it affects economic activity and is placing millions of households at risk of finding themselves in energy poverty.

Revythoussa truck loading station soon, LNG jetty in 2022

The development of a truck loading station at the Revythoussa islet LNG terminal just off Athens will be completed and launched by the end of the year, energypress sources have informed.

Also, a new small-scale LNG jetty to serve the truck loading station, and, amongst other things, contribute to LNG bunkering at the nearby Piraeus port, will be ready in autumn next year, the sources added.

The truck loading station is part of gas grid operator DESFA’s ten-year development plan that includes a category for small-scale LNG project installations, worth 40.5 million euros.

According to the ten-year development plan, the new small-scale LNG jetty, budgeted at 20.4 million euros, will be installed at the northeastern section of Revythoussa.

DESFA has already applied for funding support through the National Strategic Reference Framework (2014-2020) that would cover 50.42 percent of the small-scale LNG jetty’s cost.

 

 

DEPA: CNG, LNG supply in remote areas must be competition-based

Gas company DEPA Commercial has objected to a RAE (Regulatory Authority for Energy) proposal calling for the development of distribution networks at remote areas for CNG and LNG supply, noting, in related public consultation, that such a move would not reflect international practices, according to which CNG and LNG compression and transportation activities are taken on by suppliers based on free market competition conditions and prospects.

The RAE proposal for CNG and LNG distribution networks covering supply in remote areas is extremely restrictive and does not allow for alternatives that would facilitate greater competition and reduced costs for consumers, DEPA Commercial contended.

Also, any decision to develop virtual pipeline networks in remote areas should serve as a temporary solution and ensure that the normal development of distribution networks is not undermined, DEPA Commercial noted.

Gas grid operator DESFA, in its contribution to the public consultation procedure, noted that if a virtual pipeline network is regarded as part of the national grid, then this would help boost social welfare, minimize any potential burden on existing gas consumers, and maximize the positive impact of natural gas penetration in Greece.

 

 

Power producer LNG orders unaffected by higher gas prices

Increased natural gas prices in international markets have not restrained LNG imports at gas grid operator DESFA’s Revythoussa islet terminal just off Athens, data provided by the operator has shown.

LNG orders at the Revythoussa terminal for the two-month period covering August and September, placed primarily by power producers, seeking international market opportunities to subdue fuel costs, as well as gas company DEPA, total more than 742,000 cubic meters, the DESFA data showed.

This quantity represents six LNG tanker loads, ordered by as many key domestic natural gas market players for the two-month period.

Two loads, the first for power utility PPC and Motor Oil Hellas, and the second for Elpedison, arrived during the first half of August. A third tanker carrying LNG orders placed by Mytilineos and Heron will follow this month, bringing August’s LNG orders total at the Revythoussa terminal to 376,000 cubic meters.

Three more LNG shipments are scheduled to arrive at the Revythoussa facility in September. The first of these concerns orders placed by PPC and Motor Oil Hellas totaling 146,000 cubic meters. The second shipment will be for a 73,000-cubic meter order placed by DEPA, while the third concerns a 147,000-cubic meter order made by Elpedison.

Natural gas prices have remained high in international markets, currently about triple the price of levels in March.

DESFA considering 2 options for gas transportation to Epirus

Gas grid operator DESFA is examining two alternative solutions for the transportation of natural gas to Greece’s northwestern region of Epirus, one of the company’s most important projects of its ten-year development plan covering 2022 to 2031, still not finalized.

One option being considered by DESFA is an extension of a gas pipeline in west Macedonia, northern Greece, from Ptolemaida all the way to Ioannina, the Epirus prefecture’s capital.

The other solution being considered entails the development of an LNG terminal at Igoumenitsa port, from where a 50-km gas pipeline would be constructed into the Epirus region.

The options will undergo public consultation for comments and observations by market players before RAE, in conjunction with DESFA, decides which of the two will be implemented.

DESFA aims to finalize its ten-year development plan covering 2022 to 2031 within the summer before delivering it to RAE in September.

Vertical integration, diversification, FSRU behind MOH Komotini plant role

Petroleum group Motor Oil Hellas’ intent to further bolster its position in the electricity market is highlighted by its decision to participate, with a 50 percent stake, in a new natural gas-fired power station being jointly developed with GEK Terna in Komotini, northeastern Greece.

More specifically, MOH’s involvement in this project can be linked to three key strategic reasons: vertical integration; market diversification beyond the refining sector; and the market role of the group’s planned FSRU in Korinthos, the Dioryga Gas project.

MOH’s participation in the Komotini natural gas-fired power station, coming as an addition to another such unit, Korinthos Power, in which the petroleum group holds a 35 percent stake, is expected to further bolster its vertical integration in the electricity market.

MOH, in the retail electricity market, is represented by supplier NRG, a company displaying dynamic growth with market share gains.

The group’s acquisition of a 50 percent stake in the Komotini power plant, to offer an 877-MW capacity, will boost its presence in electricity production and creates further opportunities for trade synergies.

The group’s Dioryga Gas project in Korinthos promises to supply large LNG quantities to the Komotini power station.

According to some sources, MOH is also discussing a possible entry, as a stakeholder, into other natural gas-fired power stations that are currently being developed, so that these, too, may be supplied with LNG by the group.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DESFA’s Alexandroupoli FSRU entry awaiting DG Comp OK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man Energy Solutions to support Terna for LNG truck-loading station

German company Man Energy Solutions has signed an agreement with construction company Terna to help with the development of a truck-loading station at gas grid operator DESFA’s LNG terminal on the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens.

Man Energy Solutions will take on the task of fully constructing infrastructure needed for the management of LNG supply, through trucks, to customers.

Commenting on the agreement, Thanassis Papaioannou, head of Man Energy Solutions’ Department of Machines and Electricity Units in Greece, noted: “We are very pleased to bring our knowhow in the LNG domain to [the] DESFA [terminal], joining forces with TERNA, one of the leading construction companies in the country. The actualization of this project will create new growth opportunities in areas where natural gas networks do not exist – that is, access to gas.”

Just days ago, it was also announced that DESFA has reached a finalized investment decision on the development of a small-scale LNG jetty at the Revythoussa terminal, as an addition to the facility’s LNG truck-loading station, contributing, amongst other things, to the emergence of LNG bunkering at the nearby Piraeus port.

DESFA to develop small-scale LNG jetty at terminal by late ‘22

Gas grid operator DESFA has reached a finalized investment decision to develop a new small-scale LNG jetty at its LNG terminal on the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens, paving the way for the establishment of a small-scale LNG supply chain in Greece.

This new infrastructure, to be developed at the northeastern flank of the islet, will come as an addition to the facility’s LNG truck loading station, contributing, amongst other things, to the emergence of LNG bunkering at the nearby Piraeus port.

The new small-scale LNG jetty, budgeted at 20.4 million euros, is planned to begin operating in autumn, 2022, according to the gas grid operator’s ten-year development plan covering 2021 to 2030.

DESFA has applied for subsidized financing support through the National Strategic Reference Framework (2014-2020), which would cover 50.42 percent of the project’s cost. The operator will either use cash reserves or take out a loan for the remainder of the project’s cost.

LNG bunkering at Piraeus port will begin with supply to small-size gas-fueled vessels.

Alexandroupoli FSRU 2Q investment decision, work to start in ’21

The shareholders of Gastrade, a company founded by the Copelouzos Group for the development and operation of the Alexandroupoli FSRU planned for Greece’s northeast, are gearing up for an investment decision, expected in the second quarter, ahead of the beginning of the project’s development, anticipated within the current year.

Gastrade’s shareholders will most likely make an investment decision in May, sources informed.

The consortium’s shareholders are currently awaiting final administrative details that will formalize the entry into Gastrade of Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz and DESFA, the Greek gas grid operator.

Last week, Thanassis Dagoumas, the head official at RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, approved the transfer of a 20 percent Gastrade stake from the Copelouzos Group’s Asimina Eleni Copelouzou to the Bulgarian gas company.

Copelouzou now controls 40 percent of Gastrade, with three stakeholders, Gaslog, DEPA Commercial and Bulgartransgaz each holding 20 percent.

Within the next few weeks, the RAE chief is also expected to endorse a further 20 percent transfer from Copelouzou to DESFA, giving the consortium’s five partners equal shares of 20 percent each.

Gastrade has already announced a tender offering an EPC contract for the floating LNG terminal in Alexandroupoli. Participants face a February 18 deadline.

An investment decision promises to push forth engineering studies, including geotechnical, as well as the order of a floating vessel for the project during the year. The FSRU will be completed in 2023, Gastrade shareholders have announced.

The shareholders appear receptive to the idea of North Macedonian involvement in the Gastrade consortium. They are awaiting bilateral developments at a diplomatic level, sources informed.

Gas developments in the East Med

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

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

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

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

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

LNG exports

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

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

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

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

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

Gas from Israel

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

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

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

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

EastMed gas pipeline

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

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

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

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

What about Cyprus?

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

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

Dr Charles Ellinas, @CharlesEllinas

Senior Fellow

Global Energy Center

Atlantic Council

3 February, 2021

 

Gas market competition intensifies, TAP lowering prices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Target model decision needed in 2021, Elpedison chief points out

The new year will demand a decision from authorities and market participants on whether a true target model for the electricity market is desired, Nikos Zahariadis, chief executive at Elpedison, has pointed out in an article published by energypress as part of a feature on 2021 prospects.

The market was caught by surprise during the launch of the new electricity market in the final weeks of 2020, the official pointed out. Balancing market costs rose sharply during this period.

Most authorities and participants were expecting a different development, including a solution for the market’s chronic “missing money” problem, as well as a drop in retail electricity prices, Zahariadis noted, expressing belief that the new year will present an opportunity, even for the unprepared, to adjust to the new conditions that will ultimately enable the new energy market to operate without restrictions and showcase its advantages.

However, the new market, even when it has matured and stabilized, will still pose threats, especially for players seeking to keep distinctly separate retail and production portfolios, as protection against price manipulation has stopped functioning since the launch of the target model, he pointed out.

Looking towards the future, a gradual prevalence of the RES sector is discernible, as long as economically feasible energy storage technology is developed, Zahariadis projected. Until then, the grid will rely on natural gas-fueled power stations, the only flexible solution available at present, he added.

As for the natural gas sector, two unrelated events late in 2018, the first being an expansion at the Revythoussa LNG terminal facilities that enables bigger tankers to dock, and the second, a drop in LNG prices, have brought about permanent change in the Greek market, the Elpedison official noted.

Market players responded swiftly with LNG imports, prompting gas price reductions along with concurrent electricity price reductions. Also, the first steps were taken towards the establishment of a Balkan hub for transboundary LNG sales, Zahariadis noted.

More gas market opportunities will be offered in 2021 through the TAP project’s functioning, the company official pointed out.

Elpedison has played a leading role in sector developments, capitalizing on opportunities by importing significant LNG amounts and capturing a key position in the wholesale gas market, Zahariadis added.

The completion of equipment procurement tenders for a new 800-MW combined cycle power station, a project that will enable Elpedison to double its production as of 2023 and gradually increase sales to higher levels, stands as the company’s biggest challenge in the new year, he noted.

Higher gas prices, projected to rise further, not impacting demand

Higher LNG and pipeline gas prices resulting from new market conditions have not impacted gas demand in the Greek market, a key driver being opportunities presented to electricity producers by the target model’s new trading markets.

Latest data has shown a significant price increase in futures contracts at central European hubs, compared to levels recorded just a few weeks ago.

This price rise is seen as somewhat of a paradox given the pandemic’s second wave, now in progress, and its wider impact on demand.

Officials believe the current upward price trajectory heralds an upcoming new round of higher gas prices following extremely low prices in recent times. They sunk to a low in spring.

In Greece, LNG prices are currently rising at a steeper rate compared to those for pipeline gas. Despite this ascent, demand has so far remained strong and no cancellations have been reported for LNG orders to the Revythoussa islet terminal just off Athens.

Pundits have attributed the absence of any LNG order cancellations to the need of electricity producers to be stocked up on gas quantities in readiness for grid entry and utilization of opportunities offered by the target model’s new balancing market.

DEPA Commercial invites RES companies for collaboration

DEPA Commercial, one of two new entities formed by gas utility DEPA for its upcoming privatization, has invited renewable energy companies with existing production units or advanced projects to express interest in prospective collaborations.

DEPA Commercial is aiming to transform into an energy company with emphasis on green energy activities, chief executive Costas Xifaras has noted.

According to sources, DEPA Commercial is looking to develop a RES portfolio totaling 240 MW.

Related investments at DEPA Commercial are expected to reach 120 million euros, the company head has stated.

DEPA Commercial, interested in both solar and wind energy projects, is looking to acquire RES production licenses and, especially, mature-stage projects, sources informed, adding the company is seriously considering takeovers.

For the time being, DEPA Commercial does not intend to partner with energy groups active in the RES market as well as the company’s privatization procedure.

Besides its plan to expand into the RES market, DEPA Commercial, currently developing major LNG projects, is also exploring the possibility of entering the hydrogen sector.

Africa Upstream, LNG & Gas Summit taking place tomorrow

Following the success of the online Oil & Gas Summit, hundreds of EPs and service providers are gathering to listen to Africa’s biggest E&P opportunities, expand their partnerships and prospects at the Africa Upstream, Gas & LNG Summit, taking place tomorrow.

Speakers include: Ritu Sahajwalla, Managing Director, Greenville LNG; Ian Simm, Principal Advisor, IGM Energy; Keith Hill, President & CEO, Africa Oil corp; Harriet Okwi, Consultant & Founder, Okwi & Partners; Immanuel Mulunga, Managing Director, NAMCOR; Martin Bawden, Business Development Manager, Zebra Data Sciences; Gbemi Otudeko, Principal, Actis; Matt Tyrrell, Chief Geologist, TROIS Geoconsulting; Philippe Herve, VP Energy, SparkCognition; Adeleye Falade, General Manager Production, Nigeria LNG; Brian Marcus, Head, Capital Management, Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc; Tabrez Khan, Director, EMEIA Oil & Gas Transactions, Ernst & Young; Mike Lakin, Founder and Owner, Envoi, Allan Mugisha, Project Manager, Springfield E&P; Gil Holzman, President & CEO, Eco Atlantic Oil & Gas; Chryssa Tsouraki, Co-CEO, IN-VR; Gawie Kanjemba, Lawyer and Energy Specialist; Scott Macmillan, Managing Director, Invictus Energy; Gregory Germani, Managing Director, West African Gas Pipeline Company; Kadijah Amoah, Country Director, Aker Energy; Eyas Alhomouz, CEO, Petromal; Duncan Rushworth, VP Business Developmemt, Svenska Petroleum; Rogers Beall, Executive Chairman, Africa Fortesa Corporation; Oumarou Maidagi . D, Head of Exploration & Production, Ministry of Hydrocarbons; Peter Dekker, Chief Geophysicist, PetroSA; Tom Perkins, Director, Stellar Energy Advisors Limited; Yann Yangari, Head of New Business, Strategy and Intelligence, Gabon Oil; Monica Chamussa, Exploration Manager, ENH; David Boggs, Managing Director, Energy Maritime Associates Pte Ltd; Jorg Kohnert, Managing Director, Jagal; Amina Benkhadra, General Director, National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines, ONHYM; Jeremy Asher, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Tower Resources plc; and Khaled AbuBakr, Executive Chairman and Co-founder, TAQA Arabia.

 

 

Incoming LNG shipments down sharply, prices rise globally

LNG shipments into Greece are headed for a quieter period following heightened recent trading activity that put this energy source at the domestic sector’s forefront in the first half of 2020, overshadowing pipeline gas supply.

Latest activity indicates a swing in favor of pipeline gas, now favorably priced.

Last November, 18 tankers docked at gas grid operator DESFA’s Revythoussa LNG terminal just off Athens, bringing in a total amount of 1.5 million cubic meters of LNG, well over the schedule for this coming November, limited to three tankers booked for a total of 355,000 cubic meters.

Activity at the Revythoussa terminal was also subdued last month. Four LNG tankers brought in a total quantity of nearly 300,000 cubic meters.

LNG prices at the Dutch gas trading platform TTF, one of Europe’s biggest hubs, have risen constantly, as is the case internationally, following a dip in July.

Analysts believe rising demand in Asia, especially China, will make up for anemic demand in Europe and push LNG prices even higher as winter approaches.

Pipeline gas supply is expected to reassert its position in Greece.

Higher LNG prices prompting pipeline gas resurgence

Increased LNG prices, well above levels registered in 2019 and the first half of 2020, promise to bring about market changes, including a decrease in the high level of imports witnessed over the past few months.

LNG prices are currently double those registered at the beginning of this year, reaching 4 dollars per 1000btu from 2 dollars per btu.

The period of lower LNG prices in the market appears to have ended, officials have noted.

This development promises to bring about a pipeline gas resurgence following LNG’s dominance in the Greek market over the past year and a half, driven by record-low price levels.

LNG prices fell to extremely low levels as a result of the market availability of significant shale gas amounts from the US as well as new sources, primarily Australian.

LNG prices now appear to be steadying at higher levels.

The prospect of a pipeline gas rebound is also being helped by a stabilization of oil prices at low levels, containing oil-indexed pipeline gas prices and reinstating the competitiveness of pipeline gas.

The market fluidity caused by the pipeline gas and LNG price shifts has increased the work challenge for gas traders, affecting their ability to make forecasts.

 

 

 

DEPA Commercial to enter RES field, starting with 200-MW goal

DEPA Commercial, the new entity emerging from gas utility DEPA, will enter renewable energy production as part of the company’s transformation from a gas to energy company, its administration has decided.

The firm has already held talks with green energy players with the aim of involving DEPA Commercial in solar and wind energy projects about to enter the construction stage or already being constructed, sources informed.

An initial objective for the accumulation of a green-energy portfolio comprising approximately 200 MW has been set by the company, sources added.

Careful steps are being taken in the RES sector, Dr. Konstantinos Karagiannakos, the company’s Coordinating Director of Trading Activities, recently noted.

Having lost a steady and reliable market share in gas distribution, a sector that guaranteed DEPA annual profit of about 25 million euros, DEPA Commercial is now eyeing new activities and revenues from domains that offer more consistency than trade, entailing higher risk.

Besides the RES sector, DEPA Commercial’s lower-risk approach has also led to an interest in the prospective Alexandroupoli FSRU in northeastern Greece.

The company is also broadening its activities to cover gas supply for the industrial sector and customers in areas without gas networks, through small-scale LNG and remote CNG solutions, as well as the gas-run vehicle market through the development of a nationwide network of refueling stations.

In addition, the company is also making plans to enter eco-friendly alternative fuel markets such as hydrogen and biomethane.

 

DESFA one step away from Alexandroupoli FSRU entry

Just days after the entry of Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz, Greek gas grid operator DESFA appears set to become the fifth member of Gastrade, the company established by the Copelouzos group for the development and operation of the Alexandroupoli FSRU, a floating LNG terminal envisioned for Greece’s northeast.

Talks concerning a DESFA entry, ongoing since the beginning of this year, have essentially concluded, while an announcement of the operator’s entry into Gastrade’s line-up is expected soon, no later than the end of September, energypress sources informed.

DESFA’s interest to join the consortium for the Alexandroupoli FSRU project, the first ever private-sector plan for such infrastructure in Greece, reflects the intention of the company’s new ownership and administration to broaden DESFA’s role from gas grid operator to a major player in Greece’s natural gas market.

As for Gastrade, keen to establish partnerships that support its strategic objectives, DESFA’s expected entry into the Alexandroupoli FSRU consortium appears to have been encouraged as a result of the operator’s knowhow, as a TSO, in LNG and the Greek gas market, its players, as well as the legal framework.

DESFA’s entry would also give the Greek State a stake in the Alexandroupoli project, supported for years by the previous and current Greek governments.

Besides the Copelouzos group, holding a 40 percent stake, the Gastrade consortium is currently also made up of Gaslog, Greek gas utility DEPA, and Bulgartransgaz, each holding 20 percent stakes. The entry of a fifth member will give all partners equal 20 percent shares.

The project, budgeted at 380 million euros, is expected to be launched no later than early 2023.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU, along with the existing Revythoussa islet LNG terminal just off Athens, are crucial given the current strains in Greek-Turkish relations as the two units represent the country’s only gas infrastructure not relying on Turkish territory.

The LNG terminals also promise to increase competition in the regional market and reduce natural gas supply costs to neighboring countries.

A market test was successfully completed for the Alexandroupoli FSRU in March.

Alexandroupoli FSRU investment decision later in ’20

Investors behind the Alexandroupoli FSRU are expected to make final decisions on the project’s development in the final quarter of this year.

Two pending issues, the completion of a regulatory framework for the project, as well as approval by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition of the project and funding via the National Strategic Reference Framework (2014-2020), are expected to be resolved by the final quarter.

Also, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, is soon expected to reach a preliminary decision exempting the FSRU from compulsory access to third parties as well as tariff adjustments every three to four years. This decision, needed for the project’s regulatory framework, is expected by late October or early November, when the European Commission’s approval is anticipated.

The Directorate-General for Competition will also need to give the green light for NSRF funding.

Once these pending issues are all resolved, investors will be able to decide on the project’s development, expected to require two years to construct. Investors envision a launch in 2023.

Yesterday’s anticipated entry of Bulgartransgaz, for a 20 percent stake, highlights the project’s regional prospects. This regional dimension will be highlighted even further if ongoing Romanian interest is materialized.  Talks that have been going on for some time were disrupted by the pandemic.

For the time being, Greek gas utility DEPA, Gaslog and Bulgartransgaz each have 20 percent stakes, while the Copelouzos group holds a 40 percent share. The entry into the project of Gastrade, as a fifth partner, remains pending.

Most crucial for the project’s prospects, a market test completed in March showed that the Alexandroupoli FSRU is sustainable. The test prompted a big response from Greek and international gas traders, who placed capacity reservation bids for a total of 2.6 billion cubic meters per year.

US interest for LNG supply via the Alexandroupoli FSRU is strong. Last year, Cheniere sold a big shipment to Greek gas utility DEPA, while a further ten American shipments have been made so far this year.

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.

DEPA sales down by €210m in 2019, LNG, competition factors

Gas utility DEPA’s sales, down by approximately 210 million euros in 2019, a year in which gas consumption and import records were broken, highlight the domestic gas market’s intensified competition and impact on the corporation, which has just posted its annual results for last year on the company website.

Gas consumption in the Greek market last year reached 57.4 TWh, up from 52.4 TWh in 2018, while gas imports in 2019 totaled 57.7 TWh, the majority, 54.5 percent, in the form of LNG and the remaining 45.5 percent as pipeline gas.

Intensified competition and lower LNG prices were cited as key reasons behind DEPA’s reduces sales, from 970.9 million euros in 2018 to 760 million euros last year.

“International gas market conditions during 2019 were characterized by significant price reductions at international hubs and an LNG oversupply, which led to a corresponding reduction of LNG prices in spot markets,” DEPA noted.

These conditions encouraged opportunistic imports by major consumers in Greece who generally cover a great part of their needs through DEPA long-term supply contracts, the gas utility noted.

Besides lower LNG prices, DEPA’s long-term contracts for pipeline gas supply were another factor behind DEPA’s reduced sales figures in 2019.

DEPA’s administration successfully negotiated a supply contract revision with Russia’s Gazprom, effective as of the second half of 2019, enabling greater LNG indexing on pipeline gas prices. This revision will help bring about a rebound, the company anticipates.

Bulgaria gas pipeline explosion highlights need for local projects

Yesterday’s Bulgarian gas pipeline explosion in Bulgaria, prompting a supply cut into Greece from a northern route, yet again highlights how vital it is for Greece to develop two gas infrastructure project plans in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, and Kavala, in the north.

The explosion of this pipeline, carrying Russian gas into Greece via Bulgaria, has not affected Greece’s energy security as supply from the alternate Kipoi route remains uninterrupted, while the contribution of high LNG reserves at the Revythoussa terminal, just off Athens, has also been crucially important.

However, a Greek energy crisis could have resulted if this accident were more serious, or if the Revythoussa facility did not exist, or, worse still, the accident coincided with even greater Greek-Turkish tensions than at present, which could have meant a cut in gas supply from Turkey, hosting one of Greece’s key gas import corridors.

The intensifying geopolitical instability of the wider region, which includes Turkey, an extremely troubling neighbor, makes imperative the existence of sufficient gas storage facilities to safeguard Greece’s energy security. Despite the precarious conditions in the region, Greece remains one of the European countries without sufficient energy storage infrastructure.

In addition to the existing Revythoussa LNG terminal, Greece’s infrastructure definitely needs to be reinforced by projects such as the Alexandroupoli FSRU and an underground gas storage facility at a virtually depleted offshore deposit south of Kavala.