Shell expands its Albanian presence south, just off Greece

Canadian company Petromanas Energy has agreed to sell its Albanian assets to Shell, a move that provides the multinational giant with entrepreneurial control of the Shpiragu block in Albania’s south.

The development, which brings Shell’s oil interests further south, just above the Greek-Albanian border, coincides with the announcement of the results of a tender for exploration and exploitation licenses at three onshore blocks in western Greece.

The Arta-Preveza block, which had drawn offers from both ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) and Energean Oil & Gas, has been awarded to ELPE. The Etoloakarnania block was granted to Energean Oil & Gas, the sole bidder for this block, while the northwestern Peloponnese block has been offered to ELPE, also the only bidder.

Interestingly, the Ioannina region in Greece’s northwest, already being explored by Energean Oil & Gas, shares similar geological traits with the neighboring Albanian regions possessing oil deposits. This raises the oil exploration prospects in Greece.

Shell’s broadened activities in the neighboring north increase the likelihood that the company may also turn to Greek deposits in the future.

A total of seven exploration and exploitation licenses have been offered in Greece following the provision of the latest three in western Greece – Arta-Preveza, Etoloakarnania, and the northwestern Peloponnese.

Returning to Albania, it should be noted that Shell declared an interest in the region once a first round of drilling work had been completed. The discovery of considerable amounts of oil and natural gas was announced following the procedure. Shell decided to increase its level of investments in Albania as soon as the discoveries were confirmed, last March, in the Berat area.

As noted by sector authorities, preliminary exploration work for prospective deposits in newer areas such as Albania and Epirus, in Greece’s northwest, requires considerable work, which is usually conducted by smaller companies. The bigger companies move in to invest further, and with greater security, once major discoveries have been made.

The oil industry in Albania is currently booming. A total of eight oil companies have acquired licenses for 18 blocks, both onshore and offshore. Besides Shell and Petromanas, Bankers Petroleum and Stream Oil & Gas, both Canadian, the British firm Cairn, Israel’s ILDC, amd San Leon Energy, owned by major investor George Soros, have all acquired blocks Albania.


Shell, Eni await fees before acting on loss of monopolies

The level of network distribution fees to be set by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, within the next six months will determine the action to be taken by Shell and Eni, respective shareholders in the EPA gas supply companies for wider Athens and Thessaloniki-Thessalia, with regards to their demands from the Greek state.

The EPA companies have prematurely lost their exclusive regional supply originally agreed to as a result of gas market reforms intended to generate competition in the market.

If the network distribution fee levels, to benefit the EPA companies, are deemed appropriate, then the EPA shareholders will not launch compensation procedures against the Greek state for the loss of their respective monopolies, part of the bailout agreement. If the distribution fee levels are deemed as being to low, the companies are sure to take action.

A highly-ranked official at Shell, which holds a 49 percent stake in the EPA company serving the wider Athens area, raised the issue just weeks ago to energy minister Panos Skourletis. The minister made clear that the state does not intend to discuss compensation packages.

As a result, shareholders of the three exisiting EPA gas supply companies will wait for the distribution fee levels to be set before deciding on any future action.

As has been reported, as of 2017, gas consumers will be charged separate fees for distribution and trade, as part of the overall plan to generate competition in the sector. RAE must set the new network distribution fees by June, 2016.

DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, holds majority 51 percent stakes in all three EPA gas supply companies. Shell holds a 49% stake in the company serving the wider Athens region, while the Italian multinational Eni holds 49% stakes in the Thessalia and Thessaloniki operations.