PPC power plant in northeast to rely on new Bulgaria, Turkey grid links

New transboundary grid interconnections with Bulgaria and Turkey will seemingly play a pivotal role in the sustainability of a new 665-MW gas-fueled power station planned by power utility PPC in Komotini, northeastern Greece, judging by estimates at RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

The authority has already issued a production license for this unit, which PPC aims to launch by the end of 2024, despite the fact that five other investments plans for new gas-fueled power stations, promising additional total capacity of 3.2 GW, already exist, including a Mytilineos group unit already under construction.

According to a related report submitted by RAE to Greek Parliament, the National Energy and Climate Plan foresees an increase in installed natural gas-fueled power stations from 5.2 GW in 2020 to 6.9 GW by 2025, a 1.7 GW increase.

Given these figures, RAE presumably considers that the development of all planned units will not be possible. Instead, market forces will determine which of the investors will be able to proceed with their plans, based on individual company feasibility studies.

Power grid operator IPTO’s ten-year development plan covering 2021 to 2030, expected to soon be approved by RAE, includes projects designed to bolster the grid in the east Macedonia and Thrace regions of northeastern Greece, and also reinforce the grid interconnections of these regions with the North Aegean islands, Bulgaria and Turkey.

IPTO seeking active role in Cyprus, Israel, Egypt grid interconnections

Power grid operator IPTO is seeking an active role in the grid interconnections to link Greece with Cyprus and Israel, as well as Egypt, the company’s chief executive Manos Manousakis told yesterday’s Power and Gas Supply Forum, an online event staged by energypress.

Responding to questions as to whether IPTO is considering to acquire an equity stake in these projects, Manousakis noted that the operator’s role is to ensure the interoperability of the Athens-Crete and Crete-Cyprus power grid interconnections, a commitment made by the Greek government back in October, 2019.

The European Commission, engaged in ongoing exchange with IPTO in an effort to understand the level of maturity of these grid interconnection projects and, primarily, the interoperability of its systems, has mentioned that Brussels would be interested in the equity involvement of a European TSO, Manousakis informed.

Other priorities at IPTO include upgrading and expanding Greece’s grid interconnections with neighboring countries, which would boost cash flow in the domestic energy market through electricity exports, the chief executive noted.

A tender for the development of the local segment of a second transboundary grid interconnection linking Greece and Bulgaria, from Nea Santa, northeastern Greece, to Bulgaria’s Maritsa area in the south, will be completed this year, Manousakis informed.

New interconnections with Albania and North Macedonia are also being examined at present, he noted.

In addition, IPTO is close to signing a cooperation agreement with Italian operator TERNA for the development of a second Greek-Italian grid interconnection.

Furthermore, plans for an upgrade of the Greek-Turkish interconnection, a project linking the European and Turkish transmission systems, are also maturing, the IPTO chief 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

 

TAP trial test preparing launch, Azeri gas delivery by year’s end

The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project, to enable the delivery of Caspian gas to destinations throughout southeastern, central and western Europe, is currently undergoing trial tests at its interconnection with the Greek grid in Thessaloniki’s Nea Mesimvria area, sources have informed.

As things currently stand, gas grid operator DESFA should be ready to receive Azeri natural gas through the Nea Mesimvria point within the next few weeks, a development that will offer the Greek gas grid a fifth alternative supply entry point.

Completion of the trial testing, expected to last until next month, will enable the project’s commercial launch. Greek gas utility DEPA and Bulgaria’s BEH have reserved respective capacities at preceding auctions.

The TAP project’s launch promises to benefit the Greek economy and also bolster the country’s energy supply security.

At present, the national gas grid possesses three entry points. Russian gas enters Greece via the Nea Mesimvria point after crossing the Bulgarian system. Kipoi in Evros, northeastern Greece, linked to a Greek-Turkish pipeline, and the LNG terminal at the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens, represent the Greek system’s two other entry points.

Besides Nea Mesimvria, the TAP project, running across northern Greece and through Albania all the way across the Adriatic Sea to Italy, will also offer the Greek gas grid a fifth entry point via Italy.

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.

Tension rises as Turkish vessel enters Greek continental shelf

The situation concerning the Turkish research vessel Oruc Reis, which entered the easternmost point of the Greek continental shelf yesterday, is unchanged today, the Athens-Macedonian News Agency has reported.

Oruc Reis is accompanied by Turkish naval units, while the situation is being monitored by the Greek Armed Forces, the Greek news agency has reported.

Tension has re-escalated in the east Mediterranean since yesterday afternoon, with Turkey disputing, in practice, the Greek-Egyptian EEZ agreement through the presence and maneuvering of its Oruc Reis research vessel and Turkish warships.

Turkish survey systems are believed to be ready for application, but, according to Greek estimates, research work cannot proceed as a result of noise being generated by nearby ships, both Greek and Turkish.

Greek navy units, lined up opposite the Turkish ships, are seeking to prompt a Turkish withdrawal. The Greek Air Force and Army are also on standby.

Posting on Twitter, Cagatay Erciyes, a senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official, noted that Greece has created problems because of a 10-square-kilometer Greek island named Kastellorizo, which lies 2 kilometers away from the Turkish mainland and 580 kilometers from the Greek mainland.

“Greece is claiming 40,000 km2 of maritime jurisdiction area due to this tiny island and attempting to stop the Oruc Reis and block Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.

“This maximalist claim is not compatible with international law. It is against the principle of equality. Yet Greece is asking the EU and US to support this claim and put pressure on Turkey to cease its legitimate offshore activities. This is not acceptable and reasonable,” he said.

Cyprus has responded by issuing a Navtex of its own, effective from today until August 23, through which it notifies that the Turkish research vessel Oruc Reis and accompanying vessels are conducting illegal operations within Cyprus’ EEZ.

Greece, Egypt sign EEZ agreement, Turkey reacts

A Greek-Egyptian agreement signed yesterday to designate an exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean between the two countries, an area containing promising oil and gas reserves, “confirms and secures the continental shelf and EEZ rights and influence of our islands,” declared Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.

The agreement, co-signed by Dendias with Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in Cairo, takes Greek-Egyptian relations to a new level of closer ties, Dendias noted.

“The agreement with Egypt is within the framework of international law, respects all concepts of international law and the law of the sea and good neighbourly relations, and contributes to security and stability in the region,” Dendias said.

The agreement between Greece and Egypt is the complete opposite of an illegal, invalid and legally groundless memorandum of understanding between Turkey and Libya, now nullified, he pointed out.

Greece is determined to establish EEZ agreements with all other neighboring countries, always within the framework of international law and the law of the sea, Dendias noted, citing yesterday’s Greek-Egyptian agreement and an agreement in June with Italy.

The Greek agreement with Italy, on maritime boundaries that established an EEZ, resolved longstanding issues over fishing rights in the Ionian Sea.

Turkey responded to yesterday’s Greek-Egyptian agreement by notifying it has scheduled a live-fire military exercise at a sea area between the Greek islands Rhodes and Kastelorizo for August 10 and 11.

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.

 

Rescue talks for Prinos, Greece’s only producing field, making progress

Talks between Energean Oil & Gas and officials at the energy and economy ministries for a solution to rescue offshore Prinos, Greece’s only producing field in the north, are making progress, sources have informed.

Heightened Turkish provocations in the Aegean Sea over the past few days – the neighboring country sent a survey vessel into Greece’s EEZ – and greater US presence in the wider southeast Mediterranean region, are two developments that have injected further urgency into the Prinos field rescue talks.

The east Mediterranean is at the core of geopolitical developments that promise to create new political and energy sector conditions.

US oil corporation Chevron, America’s second-biggest energy group, has joined fellow American upstream giant ExxonMobil in the east Mediterranean with a five billion-dollar acquisition of Noble Energy.

This takeover by the California-based buyer adds to the Chevron portfolio the gigantic Leviathan gas field in Israel’s EEZ, as well as the Aphrodite gas field, situated within the Cypriot EEZ and estimated to hold 4.5 trillion cubic feet.

It also offers Chevron prospective roles in the East Med pipeline, to supply Europe via the Leviathan field, and Egypt’s LNG infrastructure, all elevating the petroleum group into a dominant regional player.

Israel and Cyprus recently ratified the East Med agreement, as has Greece, while Italy appears to be examining the prospect.

In another regional development, the Total-ENI-ELPE consortium is preparing to conduct seismic surveys at licenses south and southwest of Crete, and an environmental study southeast of Crete has been approved by Greek authorities. Also, oil majors with interests in Cyprus’ EEZ have planned a series of drilling operations for 2021.

Meanwhile, Turkey, trespassing into both Greek and Cypriot EEZ waters, consistently cites a memorandum recently signed with Libya as support for its actions, as well as its refusal to sign the UN’s International Law of the Sea treaty, strongly disagreeing with an article that gives EEZ and continental shelf rights to island areas.

Greek government officials are well aware that closure of the Prinos field amid such precarious conditions would lead to major consequences, not just economic and social, as would be the case under normal conditions, but also geopolitical.

Turkey tensions will not be escalated, ‘aim achieved’

Turkey will not continue intensifying its provocations in the East Mediterranean as the neighboring country has already achieved its main goal, a State Department declaration noting that the country is performing hydrocarbon exploration activities in disputed territory, Dr Konstantinos Nikolaou, a seasoned petroleum geologist and energy economist, supports.

Turkey’s provocations over the past few days – the country sent a seismic survey vessel into Greek EEZ waters for further exploration work following such initiatives in the past – represent part of a carefully planned strategy whose aim is to end Turkey’s East Mediterranean isolation of recent years and put the country back in the frame of the region’s hydrocarbon developments, experts believe.

Turkey has refused to sign the UN’s International Law of the Sea treaty, strongly disagreeing with Article 121, giving EEZ and continental shelf rights to island areas.

Instead, the country has followed its own rules, adjusting them as it pleases, to avoid giving any rights to island areas.

Besides seeking to reinforce the country’s position that rejects any EEZ rights for islands, the latest Turkish moves also aim to cancel EEZ agreements signed by Cyprus with Egypt, Israel and Lebanon.

Turkey has unsuccessfully sought to sign an EEZ agreement with Egypt, during Muslim Brotherhood times.

Dr. Nikolaou predicts that there will be no Turkish movement south of Crete as the transfer of an area by Libya, Turkey’s regional partner, would be required. The area of Benghazi is not controlled by Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of Libya’s UN-recognized government, but by renegade commander Khalifa Haftar.

Ultimately, the Turkish strategy in the wider region is aiming for co-exploitation of hydrocarbon deposits that may be discovered.

Chevron buys Noble Energy, US striving for regional control

Energy corporation Chevron has become the latest American giant, following ExxonMobil, to establish itself in the east Mediterranean upstream market following a five billion-dollar acquisition of Noble Energy, a deal that adds the gigantic Leviathan gas field in Israel’s EEZ to the California-based buyer’s portfolio and elevates the petroleum group into a dominant regional player.

This latest development highlights America’s strategy for the region, aiming to establish US control of production at new gas fields as well as supply to Europe, analysts noted.

Chevron’s acquisition of Noble Energy, highlighting the upstream industry’s elevated interest in the east Mediterranean, comes amid increased regional tension prompted by Turkish provocation. Greece’s neighbor has just sent a seismic survey vessel into Greek waters for hydrocarbon exploration activities.

Besides the Leviathan gas field’s recoverable reserves, estimated at 22 trillion cubic feet, the Chevron portfolio now also takes on Israel’s Tamar field, whose gas reserves are estimated at 7.1 trillion cubic feet.

Noble has proved reserves of 2.05 billion barrels of oil and gas to add to Chevron’s reported 11.4 billion.

Chevron, whose earnings in 2019 reached 139.9 billion euros, also adds to its assets, totaling 237.4 billion dollars, the Aphrodite gas field, situated within the Cypriot EEZ and estimated to hold 4.5 trillion cubic feet. Noble Energy is among this field’s operators.

Chevron’s control of the Leviathan gas field also secures American influence over the EastMed gas pipeline planned by Israel, Cyprus and Greece.

Fellow American petroleum giant ExxonMobil recently discovered, within the Cypriot EEZ, the Glafkos gas field, estimated to carry between 5 and 8 trillion cubic feet of gas. ExxonMobil has also taken on major licenses in Egypt and is also a member of a consortium formed with France’s Total and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) for licenses at offshore blocks west and southwest of Crete.

 

Ministry OKs environmental study for blocks south of Crete

Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis has approved a strategic environmental impact study concerning an offshore area south of Crete in preparation for tenders to offer exploration and production licenses for two blocks covering most of the island’s width.

Giannis Basias, the former head official at EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, went ahead with the strategic environmental impact study last August to clear the way for government authorities to stage tenders for licenses and also spare  winning bidders of needing to wait for pending issues to be resolved before they can begin their exploration efforts.

In addition, it is believed EDEY took swift action for the environmental impact study covering the offshore area south of Crete in response to interest expressed by oil majors.

The two offshore blocks south of Crete measure a total of 33,933 square kilometers and cover all four prefectures spread across the island.

These vacant blocks are situated next to two blocks southwest and west of Crete that have already been licensed out to a three-member consortium headed by Total with ExxonMobil and Hellenic Petroleum as partners.

The eastern flank of these two blocks is intruded by a corridor defined in a recent Turkish-Libyan maritime deal.

The Greek energy ministry’s approval of the strategic environmental impact study for south of Crete is not linked to Turkey’s heightened provocations in the Aegean Sea, ministry officials told energypress.

The environmental study’s approval means this offshore area is now set for tenders and also sends out a signal of readiness to the international upstream industry, the ministry officials explained.

Just days ago, the newly appointed EDEY administration and the energy ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou met with officials of Total, operator of the consortium holding the two licenses southwest and west of Crete. Seismic surveys for these blocks will be completed by March next year, the Total officials appear to have promised.

Long-standing DESFA northern Greece pipeline plan scrapped

Gas grid operator DESFA has scrapped plans for a natural gas pipeline that had been envisioned to run across northern Greece, from Komotini in the northeast to Thesprotia in the northwest, after maintaining the project in the company’s business plans for about a decade.

DESFA reached this decision as Russian President Vladimir Putin is supporting Gazprom’s development of a second branch for the wider Turkish Stream gas project, deviating Ukraine, to supply the Balkans and central Europe via Bulgaria, not Greece, as was initially considered.

A first Turkish Stream branch supplying Russian gas to Turkey is already operating.

“The project remained on the business plan for approximately ten years without progressing to the construction stage, while there is no sign of conditions leading to its construction in the immediate future,” DESFA announced.

The Komotini-Thesprotia pipeline project was budgeted at 1.8 billion euros.

The total cost of projects included in DEFSA’s development plan for 2021-2030 is now budgeted at 545.5 million euros.

US backs Greece’s east Mediterranean activities, major projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkish-Libyan MoU ‘ignores’ International Law of the Sea

A Turkish-Libyan Memorandum of Understanding emphatically ignores article 121 of the International Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982), which recognizes Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf rights for island areas, and overlooks the existence of Crete, Karpathos, Kasos, Rhodes and Kastellorizo to carve out approximately 39,000 square kilometers of Greek territory south of Crete for Libya, petroleum geologist and energy economist Dr. Konstantinos Nikolaou, a former member of the board at the Cyprus Hydrocarbons Company, has pointed out in an analysis, spelling out the dangers of Turkey’s provocative behavior in the region.

Turkey misappropriates the continental shelf and EEZ associated with Crete, Karpathos, Kasos, Rhodes and Kastellorizo in the east Mediterranean, he noted on the MoU, submitted by Turkey to the UN in an effort to make gains at Greece’s expense.

Hydrocarbon licenses for plots south and southwest of Crete that have been awarded by the Greek State to Total, ExxonMobil and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) and published in the Official Journal of the European Union, set a precedent that backs the positions of Greece, whose division of the area is based on International Law of the Sea guidelines, Nikolaou highlighted.

Turkey is using its state-run petroleum corporation TPAO as a tool to exercise foreign policy for territorial gains, Nikolaou added.

Natural gas discoveries in the east Mediterranean serve as a major driving force behind the actions of Turkey, whose energy sector is import-dependent, he pointed out.

Electric vehicles bill to include production line incentives

A draft bill being prepared by the government to promote growth for Greece’s embryonic electric vehicle sector will not only include incentives for buyers and users but also producers, energypress has been informed.

Producers establishing production lines for electric vehicle parts, including batteries, transformers and recharging units, will be offered incentives in the form of lower tax rates and reduced social security system contributions for employees, the sources said.

However, eligibility for these incentives will be conditional and require producers to establish their production facilities in either northern Greece’s west Macedonia region or Megalopoli in the Peloponnese, both lignite-dependent local economies headed for decarbonization.

The incentives are expected to include subsidies of between 4,500 and 5,000 euros for purchases of zero or low-emission electric cars, approximately 1,000 euros for electric scooters and 800 euros for electric bicycles.

Government officials plan to submit the draft bill on electric vehicles to Parliament in June.

Besides seeking to promote industrial development in current lignite areas, the master plan will also aim to make the most of early interest expressed by foreign investors.

One of these, Tesla, has, for months now, expressed interest to the Greek government for development of a fast-recharge network at Greece’s highways, a project budgeted at 10 million euros. This project is envisioned as part of a wider plan stretching from Portugal to Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Greece, Cyprus, Israel, with US, plan for EastMed meeting next month

The energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Israel plan to stage a trilateral meeting next month, with US involvement, for talks on the prospective EastMed gas pipeline, to transport gas from Israeli and Cypriot fields to Europe via Greece and Italy.

It remains uknown if Francis Fanon, the US Assistant Secretary of State and head of the country’s energy portfolio, will participate at this meeting.

It also remains unclear if participants will stage a virtual conference as a result of pandemic measures or meet in person.

The Greek, Cypriot and US governments were waiting for the new Israeli government to be sworn in before shaping plans for the EastMed meeting, to also serve as a second energy conference between the four nations following an inaugural session in Athens last August.

Yuval Steinitz has been reappointed at Israel’s top energy post, meaning the line-up of last year’s session between the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli energy ministers can be repeated at the next meeting. Greece’s Costis Hatzidakis and Cyprus’ Giorgos Lakkotrypis are still at their posts.

The Greek, Cypriot and Israeli government officials are expected to reaffirm the commitment of their respective countries to the EastMed gas pipeline, as well as commitment to cooperation for regional peace and prosperity, sources said.

Also, the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Israel, along with the session’s US representative, will seek to send Turkey a unified message on its provocative actions against Greece as well as increased aggression in the wider southeast Mediterranean region.

A trilateral EastMed gas pipeline agreement was approved in Greek Parliament last January.

Israel could soon reach a decision on the financing of some of the studies needed for the international pipeline’s link to the national grid.

Also, IGI Poseidon, a consortium comprising Greek gas utility DEPA and Italy’s Edison, is moving ahead with studies for the pipeline’s underwater and overland route between Greece and Italy. IGI Poseidon wants to make an investment decision on this project within the next two years. Meanwhile, Cyprus is making progress on licensing matters.

Electricity imports up, gas-fueled power stations running non-stop

A significant drop in gas prices, especially LNG, as well as the availability of particularly lower wholesale electricity prices in neighboring countries have prompted major changes to the country’s Day Ahead Schedule.

Electricity imports via interconnections with Bulgaria, Italy, North Macedonia and Turkey have risen to represent just under 30 percent of overall consumption.

Demand for an even greater level of imports during certain time periods has not been met as a result of infrastructure capacity limits.

Renewable energy generation, also making considerable contributions to the grid’s needs, has, at times, exceeded 30 percent of total consumption.

Gas-fueled power stations operated by independent producers are now operating around the clock, not just during peak hours, as had previously been the case. Offers by these units are now very competitively priced.

Gas-fueled power stations are currently covering over 30 percent of total consumption and lowering wholesale prices.

On the contrary, power utility PPC’s production is covering smaller amounts of daily electricity consumption. The utility’s contribution, currently slightly over 10 percent, primarily stems from its lignite-fired power stations.

Turkey’s Botas delivers ICC retroactive €200m sum to DEPA

Turkey’s state-run crude oil and gas company Botas yesterday paid in full a retroactive sum to Greek gas utility DEPA following its recent legal victory at Stockholm’s ICC (International Court of Arbitration) in an overcharging case against the Turkish company, the Greek utility has announced.

The sum paid by Botas to DEPA, believed to exceed 200 million euros, settles a nine-year dispute.

The ICC verdict was delivered on January 10. Botas has since begun transmitting natural gas to DEPA at a lower price level, making the utility far more competitive. Its existing gas transmission contract with Botas expires in 2023.

The dispute began when DEPA claimed the Turkish company was overcharging the Greek utility for its purchases of Azerbaijani natural gas delivered through Turkish pipelines since 2011.

A considerable percentage of the amount paid by Botas to DEPA will be returned to the gas utility’s customers who, by extension, had been overcharged as a result of Botas’ inflated pricing policy. DEPA is expected to be left with a considerable amount, still undetermined.

The development comes as a boost for DEPA, whose privatization procedure has been launched.

“This is very good news coming at the most appropriate time now that the company’s privatization procedure is in progress,” noted deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas.

 

Motor Oil wants Corinth FSRU included in DESFA 10-year plan

Petroleum group Motor Oil wants a prospective FSRU project for Corinth, west of Athens, included in gas grid operator DESFA’s ten-year plan, it has noted in a letter forwarded to RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, as part of a related public consultation procedure.

A floating LNG terminal at Corinth would offer multiple benefits for the natural gas markets of Greece and the wider southeast European region and, therefore, must be included in DESFA’s ten-year plan, Motor Oil supported in its letter.

RAE has already awarded a license for the project but a decision concerning a future capacity commitment at this new national grid entry point has remained pending since last June.

The project is strategically important as a very large proportion of Greece’s current – and near-future – gas imports enter via Turkish territory, Motor Oil pointed out. The Corinth FSRU would further diversify Greece’s supply sources, without geopolitical risks or restrictions, as the facility will be able to absorb supply from anywhere in the world, the petroleum group added.

This FSRU would ease congestion at the existing Revythoussa unit off Athens and contribute to energy supply security, Motor Oil, operating a major refining facility in Corinth, also noted among other factors.

ESAI/HAIPP, the Hellenic Association of Independent Power Producers, has also expressed support for the Corinth FSRU, noting, in its letter, the facility would offer a new gas grid entry point, desaturate Revythoussa and help offer more competitively priced natural gas to the Greek market.

Athens wants greater French hydrocarbon engagement

The government wants France’s Total to play a more active role in Greek offshore hydrocarbon exploration, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made clear during a meeting in Paris yesterday with the French group’s chief executive Patrick Pouyanné.

The potential of Greece’s hydrocarbon market, including offshore licenses south and southwest of Crete held by a Total-led consortium – it also features Exxon Mobil and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) – was the main focus of yesterday’s meeting.

Processing of seismic data collected from the Cretan offshore blocks has provided strong evidence of a deposit sharing similar attributes to Egypt’s Zohr gas field. However, this needs to be proved in practice. French officials have remained cautiously optimistic as they await initial drilling operations for a clearer picture.

Total’s plans for exploration within the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone, specifically at Block 8, for which Total shares a license with Italy’s Eni, were also discussed yesterday.

Turkish drillship Yavuz has sought to engage in illegal exploration activities in this area. French officials do not intend to intercept any Turkish moves at this stage but are expected to do so if the exploratory rights of Total and Eni are disputed once the companies decide to start exploring the area.

 

DEPA wins Botas case at ICC, retroactive cash boost expected

The ICC (International Court of Arbitration) has issued a favorable verdict for gas utility DEPA in a case against Botas, Turkey’s state-run crude oil and gas company, challenging price increases of Azerbaijan natural gas supplied to Greece by the Turkish firm since 2011, the Greek gas utility has announced.

DEPA took its case to the ICC seeking to have a previous ruling overturned. The resulting retroactive cash inflow for the Greek gas utility could be close to 200 million euros. Also, the ICC decision will secure DEPA a lower supply price from now on, enabling a favorable revision of the gas utility’s prices offered to customers.

The legal dispute between DEPA and Botas stretches back to 2008 and has produced a variety of intermediate situations and verdicts.

The latest round was initiated in August, 2016 when DEPA submitted a price-revision request to Botas for a lower gas supply price.

East Med pipeline to upgrade geostrategic role of participants

The EastMed Pipeline Agreement, a trilateral deal signed by the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Israel in Athens yesterday with the leaders of all three countries in attendance, includes provisions for measures to protect and safeguard the pipeline project, sources have informed.

Other details in the agreement, fundamental to the region’s energy developments, include a regulatory and licensing framework facilitating the project’s development, common tax rules, as well as terms enabling the entry of new members and transmission of additional natural gas quantities from existing or new gas fields, including south of Crete, should any new deposits be discovered in the region.

The agreement upgrades the geostrategic roles of Greece and Cyprus and is a crowning achievement for the three-way cooperation established between the two countries and Israel, noted Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The 2,000-km pipeline is planned to carry between 10 to 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Europe via the three countries and Italy.

Addressing the heightened Turkish provocation of late, the Greek leader noted that the pipeline does not pose a threat for any side, adding regional cooperation is open for all provided rules of good neighborliness and international law are respected.

Following up on the recent commencement of production at the Leviathan gas field off the coast of Israel, the EastMed Pipeline Agreement establishes Israel as a key energy player in the region, stressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The project promises to offer major collective benefit for the three countries involved as well as the wider region, noted Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

Earlier yesterday, Greek gas utility DEPA and Energean Oil & Gas, active in the wider Mediterranean region, signed a Letter of Intent at the energy ministry through which DEPA will be able to purchase natural gas quantities from Energean, extracting at Israeli gas field licenses.

DEPA, in a company announcement, described the Letter of Intent as a major first step for the East Med project’s commercial viability.

East Med, IGB, Alexandroupoli FSRU upgrading Greek role

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

DEPA, Edison firm on East Med amid Turkish provocation

Italy’s Edison, part of the Poseidon consortium formed with Greek gas utility DEPA for the development of the East Med gas pipeline – planned to transport natural gas from Israeli and Cypriot fields to the EU via Greece and Italy – has decided to accelerate pre-construction procedures following escalating provocation from Turkey, energypress has reported.

A decision was reached at a recent Poseidon meeting in Milan to assign all needed project studies, financially backed by the EU, within the next two months for swifter completion of preliminary procedures, and, by extension, the project itself, a 2,000-km pipeline.

Greece’s energy minister Costis Hatzidakis and his Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz reiterated their support for the project at a recent meeting.

Turkey, seeking to block the project, recently reached a maritime border agreement with Libya, which EU leaders are set to reject as invalid, insisting the pact interferes with the rights of other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Hristodoulidis has received reassurances from Israeli government officials that the country is not involved in talks with Ankara for the development of an alternative gas pipeline, according to a Cypriot newspaper report. Israel remains committed to the East Med plan, it added.

DEPA’s Poseidon stake will be transferred to the Greek gas utility’s division for international projects. DEPA is being split ahead of its upcoming privatization.

Greek-Cypriot-Israeli energy summit highlights US interest

Washington’s supportive interest in the energy partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel has grown, driven by the prospect of hydrocarbon exploration in the southeast Mediterranean region as well as the East Med natural gas pipeline, planned to carry Cypriot, Israeli and, possibly, Egyptian natural gas to the EU via Greece and Italy.

Highlighting this interest, an upcoming Athens energy summit, scheduled to take place on August 6 and 7, comes as a US initiative, energypress sources informed.

It will follow a meeting just days ago, at the East Med Gas Forum in Egypt, that brought together Greek energy minister Costis Hatzidakis with his Cypriot and Israeli peers, Giorgos Lakkotrypis and Yuval Steinitz, respectively. In addition, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis recently met with Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades.

US Assistant Secretary Francis Fannon, head of the Bureau of Energy Sources, will also take part in the Athens energy summit. Fannon is scheduled to meet with Hatzidakis, Greece’s energy minister, and the country’s deputy foreign minister Konstantinos Fragogiannis on the eve of the event.

The summit highlights the US-fostered partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel, united against escalating Turkish tension concerning offshore hydrocarbon exploration plans within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The event’s participants are also expected to discuss the East Med pipeline. An agreement between the three countries and Italy remains pending. Last spring, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte claimed he sees no benefits for Italy in the project, effectively bringing the country’s effort in the matter to a standstill.

Washington openly supports this natural gas pipeline as it promises to establish an alternative supply route to Europe that would restrict Moscow’s energy dominance on the continent, through Gazprom.

Sideline efforts are being made to alter Italy’s negative stance, sources informed. A message could be projected to Rome through the imminent Athens event.

New EU warning for Turkey over Cyprus EEZ violations

The EU’s 28 are set to issue a new warning to Turkey today in response to the country’s illegal hydrocarbon exploration activities within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), diplomatic sources have informed.

EU governments are expected to vow to freeze negotiations over the modernization of the customs union between the bloc and Turkey, while reiterating that accession negotiations have come to a standstill.

The EU-28 will also signal that further escalation is possible, as the EU “stands ready to respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus,” if drilling activity continues.

The statement, due to be approved by the EU’s European affairs ministers today, is subject to ongoing deliberations between diplomats and the final wording may change.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Sunday that he may demand EU sanctions against Turkey over drilling activities.

Ankara is disputing Nicosia’s EEZ rights as Cyprus prepares to drill at offshore gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey has sent exploration vessels in the area, with Cyprus protesting a violation of its sovereignty.

PM: Greece still working on Turkish Stream extension plan

Greece has not stopped working on the prospect of extending the Turkish Stream gas pipeline westward through northern Greek territory – for an Adriatic Sea crossing and gas supply to southern and central Europe – Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras noted during a speech delivered at the recent Thessaloniki Summit.

The Russian pipeline’s development all the way to Turkey’s European tip in the country’s northwest has been completed, thereby linking the gas systems of both nations, and will be marked by a ceremony today to be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Its 15.75-billion cubic meter capacity is 50 percent bigger than the TAP project.

Turkish Stream constitutes an alternative route for Russia following EU objections and the eventual debacle, in 2014, of South Stream, another gas transmission project that was planned to reach Bulgaria. The follow-up Russian plan anticipates a westward stretch from Turkey’s European tip to the Greek border, followed by an Adriatic Sea crossing. Officials are contemplating combining the pipeline with the IGI project.

ExxonMobil drillship nearing for Cyprus venture amid heightened tension

US energy giant ExxonMobil, in a collaborative effort with Qatar Petroleum, is preparing to launch exploratory drills at Block 10 in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) amid heightened military activity in the region.

Hydrocarbon experts have increased the likelihood of Block 10, southwest of Cyprus, carrying significant reserves.

An ExxonMobil drillship, Stena Icemax, capable of drilling in water depth up to 3,000 meters, embarked on its cross-Atlantic journey on October 29 and is reportedly scheduled to arrive at Limassol port on November 12, where personnel for the drilling venture will board the vessel before it heads out to Block 10 to commence work.

A Navtex international automated warning system, whose applications include global maritime distress safety, has been programmed by Cyprus to monitor parts of the island nation’s EEZ areas concerning the upcoming drills.

Turkey has heightened its mobilization in the wider region, suggesting it will bargain hard to promote its hydrocarbon interests in the wider Middle East region.

Less than a fortnight ago, Turkish naval forces accompanied the neighboring country’s Barbaros survey vessel within Cypriot EEZ territory and, in addition, have also joined the Turkish drillship Porthitis (Fatih) for deep-sea drilling operations north of Cyprus, reported to have begun.

The upcoming exploration work and possible hydrocarbon production in the Cypriot EEZ could change the Cypriot balance. The Turkish occupation of the island’s north has prevented Cyprus from utilizing its natural wealth since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.

DESFA, Botas working on deal to liberalize Greek entry point

Greek gas grid operator DESFA and Turkish state-run crude oil and gas company Botas are working on an agreement concerning the Kipous grid interconnection in Evros, at Greece’s northeastern tip, which would enable third parties, in addition to Greek gas utility DEPA, to use the link as an entry point for natural gas imports.

DESFA has already reached an equivalent agreement with Bulgarian operator Bulgartransgaz for the gas grid interconnection at Sidirokastro, by the Greek-Bulgarian border. Subsequently, since 2017, five new firms besides DEPA, until then Greece’s only natural gas importer from this entry point, have brought gas quantities into the local market via the Sidirokastro link.

DEFSA and Botas have now been engaged in talks over the matter for several months. It is unclear how much more time will be needed for an agreement.

Their negotiations are focused on technical measure-related issues and a reverse-flow agreement that would also enable gas outflow from Greece to Turkey.