Alexandroupoli FSRU on track for early-2024 launch

Development of the Alexandroupoli FSRU at the country’s northeastern port is progressing steadily and set for an on-schedule launch by the end of January, 2024, energypress sources have informed.

Tanker conversion work being conducted for the FSRU at Singapore’s Keppel Shipyard was 87.1 percent ready at the end of August, meaning all basic equipment, including burners and gasifiers, has been installed, the sources added.

Representatives of Gastrade, the consortium established by the Copelouzos group for the development and operation of the Alexandroupoli FSRU, visited the Keppel Shipyard just days ago.  The consortium’s chief executive, Kostis Sifneos, headed the visiting group.

The consortium’s members – the Copelouzos group’s Elmina Copelouzou, Gaslog Cyprus Investments Ltd, DEPA Commercial, Bulgartransgaz and Greek gas grid operator DESFA, all holding 20 percent shares – plan to soon hold a meeting to discuss the project’s steps leading to its launch, the sources added.

The FSRU vessel is expected to be ready to set sail for Alexandroupoli in mid-November, before reaching its destination in early December.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU, to offer a 153,500-m3 LNG capacity, will be connected to Greece’s gas network via a 28-km pipeline, through which gasified LNG will be distributed to the domestic market, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia, Hungary, Moldova and Ukraine.

The project will serve as a new energy gateway promising to play a key role in the energy security and independence of Greece as well as central and southeast Europe.

PPC chief to take part in Romanian Three Seas meeting

Greece aims to bolster its geopolitical influence in the Balkans through energy, power utility PPC’s takeover of Italian group ENEL’s Romanian subsidiary ENEL Romania being a key part of this strategy.

In addition to PPC’s takeover of ENEL Romania, Helleniq Energy recently invested in Romania and had been preceded by Mytilineos – both in renewable energy projects.

PPC’s ENEL Romania takeover has prompted an announcement from Romanian president Klaus Iohannis, who named Greece as a new member of The Three Seas, a diplomatic initiative taken by Romania’s political leadership to bring together EU member states and candidates located between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Seas for collaboration in the fields of energy, infrastructure and the digital economy.

Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine are the other members of The Three Seas initiative.

Iohannis, Romania’s president, will host a two-day meeting in Bucharest on September 6 and 7 for talks on collaboration in these domains. Ministers and entrepreneurs representing the aforementioned countries, including PPC’s chief executive officer Giorgos Stassis, energypress sources have informed, will take part at the upcoming Bucharest meeting.

Romania has become a geopolitical focal point as a result of the country’s close proximity to war-entangled Ukraine. In addition, Bucharest has established a pivotal role as a result of its support of Ukraine in the war with Russia and Moldova’s EU membership quest. Romania has also facilitated the movement of grain across its borders.

Collective gas orders increase in second purchasing round

A second round of collective European gas purchases, through a platform similar to one established for vaccine orders during the pandemic, has resulted in natural gas orders totaling nearly 12 bcm, well over a quantity ordered during the procedure’s first round in May.

However, the EU initiative fell short of attracting full participation. Second-round orders were delivered to twenty European grid entry points, the majority of quantities at entry points in the Netherlands, France, Italy, Bulgaria and Germany, as well as Ukrainian storage facilities, Sefcovic noted.

“The positive results of this second round illustrate that there is a need and clear added value to join forces, pool our demand and work together to guarantee stable and affordable gas supply to the EU market,” noted the European Commission’s Vice President Maros Sefcovic, who oversees the platform, named AggregateEU.

It was established by the EU following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to prevent bidding wars between fellow member states and utilize their collective bargaining power potential for competitively priced energy supply as an alternative to Russian natural gas.

Approximately 5.5 bcm, or 45 percent, of the second round’s orders, totaling 11.98 bcm, were made for LNG, well over this energy source’s share of orders in the first round, below 20 percent of the total. Pipeline gas represented all other collective orders made through the platform in the second round.

A third round is expected to be staged in September and is planned to be followed by two further rounds before the end of the year.

EuroAsia Interconnector funds threatened by project delays

EU authorities appear to have issued a strict warning to Cyprus over major delays in binding scheduling terms for EuroAsia Interconnector, a project of strategic importance planned to interconnect the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids.

According to sources, the EU has warned the Cypriot government that if appropriate decisions are not taken immediately to ensure that the project can be put back on track, then a decision offering 657 million euros worth of Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funding for the PCI-listed project would need to be reviewed.

In response, Cypriot president Nikos Christodoulides held an emergency meeting last Friday with Nasos Ktorides, CEO of the EuroAsia Interconnector consortium, and the country’s energy minister George Papanastasiou.

Though no official announcements have been made, Cypriot press has reported that the government intends to engage directly and vigorously at the highest political level to secure the planned funding for the project.

Delays include Greek power grid operator IPTO’s entry into the EuroAsia Interconnector consortium with a 25 percent stake. A strategic agreement was announced at the end of June but the matter has not progressed further as due diligence remains unfinished.

The EU has insisted on IPTO’s participation as, on the one hand, the project will be connected to the Greek operator’s networks in Crete, and on the other, IPTO, it is believed, would ensure the project’s technical integrity and operational viability.

EuroAsia Interconnector has also been held back by the consortium’s delay in signing a contract with Norwegian company Nexans, to manufacture the project’s subsea cable.

This delay threatens to deprive EuroAsia Interconnector of its intended production slot at Nexans because the manufacturer faces high demand for cables from countries such as Germany and the Baltic countries as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine.




Alexandroupoli FSRU pipeline work in progress, tanker to arrive November

Development work for the Alexandroupoli FSRU at the country’s northeastern port is in full progress on all fronts, in preparation for the project’s launch early next year.

Besides the project’s floating LNG storage and regasification infrastructure, work is also in progress on the offshore and onshore pipelines to transmit gas to the national grid and, from there, the Greek-Bulgarian IGB pipeline connection for gas quantities to the Balkans.

Officials at Gastrade, the consortium established by the Copelouzos group for the development and operation of the Alexandroupoli FSRU, offered an on-site presentation of the FSRU’s work in progress to visiting ambassadors. This mission was organized by George Tsounis, the US ambassador to Greece, and included the ambassadors of Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine.

The FSRU’s subsea pipelines, to measure 24 km, and overland pipelines, measuring a further 4 km, have been delivered to the Alexandroupoli port for installation.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU promises to serve as an additional source of gas supply for Greece and other Balkan countries. Quantities will be transmitted through the IGB for delivery to Bulgaria and, by extension, Romania.

The project’s specially equipped floating tanker is expected to arrive at its Alexandroupoli location in late November, while the FSRU facility should start operating early in 2024.

Gastrade has already been granted a further license for an additional FSRU, intended to serve Moldova and Ukraine, if the results of a related market test indicate that such an additional project would be viable.

It remains unknown when Gastrade could make an investment decision on this additional FSRU.


Brussels backs TAIPED tender relaunch for South Kavala UGS

The European Commission has endorsed Greek privatization fund TAIPED’s intention to relaunch a failed tender for the development of “South Kavala”, an almost depleted natural gas field in the Aegean Sea’s north, as an underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) that would, under the new plan, also be equipped to store hydrogen.

Brussels’ decision on the South Kavala UGS has been included in a just-published European Commission post-program surveillance report covering the state of the Greek economy and its developments.

TAIPED declared that the South Kavala UGS had ended without a result in March. At the time, the privatization fund also noted it would assess international gas market conditions, taking into account circumstances created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as the European Commission’s REPowerEU decisions, to decide on whether it would relaunch the South Kavala UGS tender in the short term.

As previously reported by energypress, TAIPED has submitted an application to Brussels to have the UGS included on the European Commission’s project-supporting PCI list, as a facility also equipped to store hydrogen.

Emergency measures expiring, Athens seeks extension

The energy ministry has forwarded an official request to the European Commission seeking an extension, until the end of the year, of emergency electricity market measures that were introduced last summer to combat energy price rises and are set to expire on July 1. Brussels has yet to respond to Athens’ request.

Over the past nine months, the extraordinary measures have proven effective in subduing electricity prices for households and businesses at levels well below those created by the energy crisis.

The energy ministry imposed a wholesale price cap on electricity, interrupted indexation clauses concerning retail tariffs, and has been subsidizing electricity. Also, in an effort to stimulate competition, the ministry set a rule requiring power suppliers to announce their nominal tariffs – not including subsidies – for each forthcoming month ten days in advance, and has given electricity users the freedom to switch suppliers without any penalty costs.

The Greek request forwarded to the European Commission wants this entire package of measures extended until the end of 2023, as protection against any new wave of energy price rises.

Though energy prices have deescalated over recent months, analysts have not ruled out a rebound and reemergence of energy sufficiency issues in Europe next winter.

Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and Europe’s inconclusive plan regarding alternative energy sources are the main factors nurturing these concerns.

‘National interests dominating global energy transition’

National interests continue to dominate the energy transition on a global level, the World Energy Council’s (WEC) latest World Energy Pulse, surveying more than 700 energy leaders and decision-makers from nearly 80 countries for updated snapshots of current attitudes, trends and needs, has shown.

Almost half, or 46 percent, of the survey’s participants cited national priorities and the risk of an out-of-control green technology race as the biggest obstacles to a smooth and fair transition to a zero-emission economy.

Offering his interpretation, Haris Doukas, Associate Professor at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), member of the WEC Program Committee and head of the WEC office in Greece, described the dominance of national interests expressed in the survey as aftershocks linked to COVID-19, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and an international race to boost domestic industry, intensified by US President Joe Biden’s recent Inflation Reduction Act.

Though 54 percent of the survey’s respondents agreed that energy independence is vital to their countries’ climate and energy security agenda, an overwhelming 84 percent of participants accepted that energy interdependence is the new global reality.

DEPA Commercial, Moldova’s Energocom nearing gas deal

Greek gas company DEPA Commercial is close to establishing a gas supply deal with Moldovan state gas and electricity supplier Energocom, sources have informed, noting the two sides are currently discussing gas quantities and prices for what could be a long-term agreement.

Both Energocom and Moldova, as a whole, are looking for alternative energy sources as the Balkan country, neighboring Ukraine, seeks to end its reliance on Russian fossil fuels.

Kostas Xifaras, chief executive at DEPA Commercial and Energom’s general director Victor Binzari have held talks as part of an official visit to Athens by the leadership of Moldova’s energy ministry.

Greek energy minister Kostas Skrekas, who met with his Moldovan counterpart, Victor Parlikov, during this visit, released an announcement about the prospective supply deal.

DEPA Commercial gas quantities would reach Moldova through an eastern corridor, or network of gas pipeline interconnections linking Greece with Bulgaria (IGB), Bulgaria with Romania, and Romania with Moldova.

DEPA Commercial is also looking to broaden its gas trading activities with other Balkan countries ahead of the arrival of the Alexandroupoli FSRU, a floating LNG terminal now being developed in Greece’s northeast.

DEPA Commercial is a member of the five-member Gastrade consortium established by the Copelouzos group for the development and operation of the Alexandroupoli FSRU.

Overdevelopment danger for LNG terminals in Europe, IEEFA warns

Major LNG terminals being developed in various parts of Europe, including Greece and Germany, in response to reduced Russian gas supply, could fail to achieve full commercial potential as the continent may end up possessing a far greater number of such facilities than required by 2030, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has warned.

If REPower EU objectives are attained and Turkish gas demand remains steady, then European demand for LNG will be restricted to a level of just 150 billion cubic meters in 2030, down from 175 bcm in 2022, IEEFA pointed out. At such a level in 2030, LNG terminals in Europe would operate at less than 40 percent of capacity.

IEEFA also stressed that European gas operators have an incentive to over-expand their infrastructure and asset base in order to deliver profits to shareholders, even if projects do not end up being fully utilized.

Existing legislation provides operators with guaranteed revenues collected through tariffs, IEEFA pointed out. Evidence strongly suggests the Russian attack on Ukraine has accelerated Europe’s energy transition by dramatically boosting the penetration of green technologies that reduce demand for gas and LNG, the institute added.


US subdued on East Med plan despite anticipated revival

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has praised Greece’s leading role concerning the region’s energy transition in his opening remarks at the start of the 4th round of the Greece-US Strategic Dialogue, while underlining that the US is grateful for Greece’s unwavering support for Ukraine.

“Greece’s transition is a model for the region,” Blinken stressed, recalling that renewable energy sources such as wind and solar have, in recent times, provided half of Greece’s electricity needs, which he said was equivalent to taking 3 million cars off the roads.

The US Secretary of State also praised Greece’s role in supporting neighboring countries to diversify their energy sources by reducing their dependence on Russia, such as Bulgaria.

However, the US appears unmoved by Israel’s renewed interest for the development of the East Med gas pipeline, which would connect Israel, Cyprus and Greece before crossing to Italy visa the Poseidon pipeline. This project would greatly contribute to Europe’s efforts aiming to end the continent’s reliance on Russia for fossil fuels.

Contrary to expectations, the East Med project has not been included on the agenda of talks for Blinken’s official two-day visit to Athens, today and tomorrow, reliable sources informed.

Roughly a year ago, the US had announced it could not support this pipeline project, attributing this stance to a lack of feasibility. But the country’s willingness to maintain a balance in its regional geopolitical interests, especially between Greece and Turkey, is most likely the underlying reason.

Despite difficulties faced in its ties with Turkey, the US appears unwilling to support a regional gas pipeline project that would sideline this NATO ally.

Alexandroupoli infrastructure offering regional gas-hub potential

Gas infrastructure being planned and developed at Alexandroupoli, on the edge of northeastern Greece, offers potential to establish this provincial city as a regional gas hub in southeast Europe that will facilitate gas trade and shape regional gas prices.

Gas quantities of between 20 and 30 bcm are expected to be attracted to the region by FSRUs, gas pipelines and a vertical pipeline corridor, covering the wider region.

However, the effort to establish a gas hub in this specific region faces many challenges. Besides bringing in large gas quantities and offering competitive prices as well as high liquidity, all needed to lure players from other hubs and neighboring markets, the region also requires a major reinforcement of the transport system, along with a significant increase in the capacity of the recently launched Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas pipeline.

The absence of a gas hub in southeast Europe and the prospective accumulation of quantities up to 30 bcm in Alexandroupoli offers great potential for the provincial Greek city, as was pointed out by a leading energy ministry official during last weekend’s launch of a new power station in the area.

Attracting significant gas quantities to the location is a first step. It must be followed up by the establishment of a gas spot market in Greece, one capable of increasing interconnectivity in the southeast European market.

Greece promises to serve as an entry point for the aforementioned natural gas vertical corridor, to run through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Ukraine and Moldova.

This project, to utilize existing infrastructure combined with new infrastructure, will incorporate the Trans Balkan Pipeline, which transported Russian gas to southeast Europe via Ukraine for thirty years and is now set to operate with gas flow in the opposite direction.

Copelouzos: Alexandroupoli FSRU to transport gas to Ukraine

Gastrade, the consortium established by the Copelouzos group for the development and operation of the Alexandroupoli FSRU, a floating LNG terminal now being developed in Greece’s northeast, will also install an additional FSRU unit at the location, the group’s chief, Dimitris Copelouzos has asserted in comments to media, noting the facility will be capable of transporting natural gas to Ukraine.

According to sources, the Copelouzos group has already held preliminary talks with officials of the embattled country on the prospect of natural gas supply from Greece’s northeast.

A second Alexandroupoli FSRU is expected to be completed in 2025, as an addition to the first terminal at the location, now nearing completion.

The Copelouzos group chief, asked by journalists on the route to be used for transporting natural gas to Ukraine, responded: “Via the pipeline that is now empty,” a reference to the Trans Balkan Pipeline, which transported Russian gas to Greece through the Sidirokastro entry point in the country’s northeast until early 2020.

This route was replaced by Turk Stream in early 2020 so that Ukraine could be bypassed.

The Trans Balkan Pipeline runs from Russia, crossing Ukraine, Moldova and Bulgaria, before branching out to Greece and Turkey.

Investments, including compressor stations in Bulgaria, will be needed to fully utilize the capacity offered by the Trans Balkan Pipeline, sources pointed out.

Natural gas prices tumble to 12-month low, crucial period still ahead

European natural gas prices tumbled to 65 euros per MWh yesterday, a new 12-month low last reached in mid-January, 2022, prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The price drop has been attributed to mild European winter conditions, so far, that have flattened demand and kept the continent’s energy storage facilities 84 percent full, well above the level recorded a year ago and approximately 30 percent higher than the average level recorded over the past five years.

Analysts insist European market conditions remain fragile, despite the favorable price trajectory of natural gas so far this winter. A sudden change of weather conditions, combined with a complete disruption of Russian gas supply to Europe, could spark a new round of price volatility and deplete European gas reserves by the end of winter, analysts have warned.

The European energy market, experts have long pointed out, will face its toughest test in spring, when EU member states will begin efforts to refill their gas storage facilities in preparation for the winter of 2023-2024.

This refilling period could once again spike natural gas prices to levels of 120 euros per MWh, analysts have noted. Russian pipeline gas supply is expected to be considerably lower in spring, while the LNG market, on which Europe now greatly depends, is expected to be tight in spring.

A worst-case scenario for Europe would combine a complete disruption of Russian natural gas supply with an increase of LNG demand in the Chinese market. Such a combination would prompt a natural gas shortage estimated to reach as much as 57 billion cubic meters, or 15 percent of projected demand.

Greece becoming a key gas exporter, rise in loads relayed

Greece is developing into a major exporter of natural gas with roughly one in three shipments that reach the country relayed to other countries, well over last year’s level of 9.8 percent.

Russia’s war on Ukraine has increased the geostrategic importance of Europe’s south, including Greece, in terms of gas transportation, supply routes from the continent’s south to north now dominant, a reversal of the flow in previous decades.

LNG shipments to Greece supply a large number of landlocked European countries, all the way north to Ukraine. As a result, Greece’s gas exports have skyrocketed in 2022.

In the first eleven months this year, the country’s gas exports reached 26 TWh, more than triple the level recorded for all of 2021, when the year’s gas exports totaled 7.6 TWh.

Greece’s gas exports are expected to rise even more in 2023 as a result of last October’s launch of the IGB pipeline running from Greece to Bulgaria.

Technical solutions are now being sought so that gas exports can also be made via the IGB pipeline as soon as the Alexandroupoli FSRU, a project led by Gastrade, is launched in late 2023. The Alexandroupoli LNG terminal’s arrival will further boost Greece’s capacity to export gas.



New household gas connections plunge 50%, energy crisis prompts hesitation

The number of households connecting to the gas grid has fallen by roughly 50 percent since mid-2021, many residential consumers now hesitant to make the switch as natural gas has lost its appeal amidst the energy crisis.

Consumer hesitation for new gas connections has been even more severe in the business category, where it has just about frozen.

Industrial consumers, too, have reduced their consumption levels of natural gas, turning, if technically possible, to alternative fuels such as diesel or LPG.

This overall downturn in the usage of natural gas is having a wider affect on the gas sector, impacting distribution network operators, gas companies as well as technicians specializing in the development and operation of gas-based facilities.

Even though supply of Russian gas to Greece has not been affected – Turk Stream, supplying the country via Turkey, has been operating continuously since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – the possibility, alone, of a mandatory 15 percent reduction of gas usage should a heightened state of alert be triggered in Europe has led to reservations among businesses and residential consumers.

Natural gas prices have, for the time being, only remained competitive in Greece courtesy of generous subsidies offered to households by gas utility DEPA Commercial.


ExxonMobil-Helleniq Energy seismic surveys off Crete

US oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil has been conducting seismic surveys under complete secrecy and at a rapid pace over the past week or so at two offshore block licenses, west and southwest of Crete, held with Helleniq Energy, formerly named ELPE, as its junior partner.

The two blocks share similar geological traits with Egypt’s giant offshore Zohr gas field and, according to early estimates, may contain rich natural gas quantities.

American presence is being assured, through ExxonMobil, in the southeast Mediterranean region at a particularly critical geopolitical period, both because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Turkey’s provocative moves against Greece (aggressive rhetoric and the Libya pact), political analysts told energypress.

ExxonMobil acted swiftly to increase its stake in a consortium holding licenses for the two offshore Cretan blocks following a recent  decision by France’s TotalEnergies to withdraw. ExxonMobil acquired TotalEnergies’ share to now hold a 70 percent share in the consortium as the venture’s operator.

The ExxonMobil-led seismic surveys off Crete, which began on October 24, are being conducted by Norway’s PGS and the company’s Sanco Swift seismic vessel. It is conducting 3D surveys, meaning ExxonMobil is focusing on specific areas for possible natural gas deposits.

Ukraine war adds to complexity of Greek-Albanian EEZ dispute in Ionian

An unresolved exclusive economic zone dispute between Greece and Albania over territorial rights in the Ionian Sea has become even more complicated as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, a conflict that has turned the Ionian and Adriatic sea areas into a hotbed of confrontation between NATO and Russia.

According to a recent report published by Italian daily La Reppublica, numerous incidents, both minor and more intense, have taken place in the Adriatic and Ionian seas between the escorting forces of the US 6th Fleet aircraft carrier Harry Truman and Russian warships. At least one of these incidents took place off Corfu, military sources have informed.

The naval incidents in the region are a result of its increased strategic importance for NATO with regards to the war in Ukraine as well as military preparations for any possible spread of the conflict beyond Ukraine.

Greece and Albania, following an agreement between the two countries, have begun procedures to take their Ionian Sea EEZ dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The consequences of the Ukraine war add to the issue’s complexity.

Energean and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), both holders of licenses in the Ionian Sea, are working to explore the region’s hydrocarbon prospects.

EastMed pipeline consortium set to apply for PCI status

Boosted by the prospect of a significant gas deposit discovery off the Cyprus coastline, IGI Poseidon, the consortium behind the prospective EastMed gas pipeline, a 50-50 venture involving Edison and DEPA International Projects, is set to submit an application seeking Project of Common Interest (PCI) status, which assures EU funding support, for the gas pipeline project.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, skyrocketing oil and natural gas prices, as well as the EU’s efforts aiming for greater energy independence, with the backing of the US, are developments that have created new market conditions favoring the EastMed gas pipeline’s development.

On Monday, the ENI-Total consortium announced it has detected natural gas at Block 6 off the Cypriot coast, noting its preliminary estimates indicate the existence of a gas deposit measuring 2.5 trillion cubic feet, a significant quantity.

This gas deposit discovery is crucial for the sustainability prospects of the EastMed gas pipeline, intended to transport gas from deposits in the east Mediterranean to Europe.

According to a recent update from the IGI Poseidon consortium, the EastMed project’s licensing procedure and technical plans are nearing completion and should be finalized by the end of 2022. The EastMed gas pipeline could begin operating within 2027, the consortium added.

PCI-related funding support from the EU for the EastMed gas pipeline’s development would be crucial as this is a high-cost project, budgeted, most recently, at 5.2 billion euros.

European gas storage units nearly 70% full, on course for October target

Europe’s gas storage facilities are estimated to be close to 70 percent full in early August, according to data provided by Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE), representing the continent’s gas infrastructure operators.

Europe’s gas storage units continued being filled at a rapid rate in late July, despite the reduction of Gazprom’s gas supply through the Nord Stream I pipeline, now operating at just 20 percent of capacity.

Given the continent’s current gas storage levels, European authorities are confident an 80 percent objective can be achieved by early October. However, storage level discrepancies between EU member states remains a challenge that needs to be dealt with.

German gas storage units are now 70 percent full, while the level in Italy is higher, at 73 percent. On the contrary, gas storage facility levels are far lower elsewhere, registering 48 percent in Bulgaria, 24 percent in Ukraine and 53 percent in Croatia.

Fixed charge cap of 5 euros, over €500m raised in July for subsidies

The government has decided to implement a five-euro cap on fixed charges in electricity bills, energy minister Kostas Skrekas has told parliament.

It is the latest in a series of energy-crisis measures introduced by the government and comes after electricity suppliers opted to increase their fixed charges as a means of keeping their tariffs – the competitive aspect of electricity bills – as low as possible.

A new market mechanism’s revenues generated for the Energy Transition Fund, supporting the government’s electricity subsidies initiative, reached over 330 million euros in the first half of the month and could exceed 500 million euros by the end of the month, the minister told parliament. This sum nearly covers the monthly cost for subsidies.

The energy crisis, brought about by pandemic-induced market abnormalities, has been exacerbated by Russia’s war on Ukraine, which the minister described as “catastrophic, causing thousands of deaths, many of the victims being unarmed civilians, and beyond that, an enormous energy crisis that is feeding economic and inflationary crises, which we hope does not also lead to a food crisis.”

Lignite-fired output to double, PPC sets conditions for return

State-controlled power utility PPC will double its lignite-fired electricity generation over the next 12 months for annual production of 10 TWh, from 5 TWh at present, an increase covering 20 percent of Greece’s annual electricity needs, energy authorities have agreed at an emergency meeting chaired by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The overall effort, reversing the country’s decarbonization plan in order to make up for dwindling Russian natural gas exports and help counter skyrocketing gas costs, will include the development of new lignite mines.

The government’s recently introduced price caps for power generation, set at different levels for respective production technologies, will be applied to this emergency lignite plan.

A price cap of 208 euros per MWh has been imposed on lignite-fired electricity production, meaning the additional 5-TWh amount to be generated by PPC will be worth roughly one billion euros. This additional 5-TWh in production would have been worth 1.8 billion euros if current energy exchange price levels were applied. The wholesale cost of lignite-generated electricity at present is 341.17 euros per MWh.

PPC, controlling all the country’s lignite facilities, has set a series of conditions for the return of lignite-fired power stations, including the abolishment of a rule requiring the company to commit 50 percent of the previous year’s lignite-based output to the futures market.

The power utility has also demanded a 150 million-euro guarantee from the government  should Russia’s war on Ukraine end and energy prices deescalate, which would end the need for the emergency lignite-fired production boost. In setting this condition, PPC has taken into account investments it will need to make to double its lignite-fired generation over the next year.

The government appears to be willing to satisfy the conditions set by PPC, which has disinvested in lignite over the past couple of years.


Brussels report highlights EU’s alarming energy cost increase

The cost of wholesale electricity in the EU rose by over 400 percent in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the equivalent period a year earlier, while gas imports during this period cost the EU a total of 78 billion euros, of which 27 billion euros concerned Russian natural gas quantities, a report published by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy has shown.

Households and businesses across the continent have faced unprecedented natural gas cost increases following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Consequently, the TTF index skyrocketed to peak at 212 euros per MWh on March 7.

The EU adopted a series of sanctions primarily concerning the energy sector as a result of the Russian attack, the report noted. Also, in May, the EU approved its REPower EU plan, designed to gradually end Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels, bolster the continent’s energy security, and support the green-energy transition.

Imports of Russian gas fell by 71 percent via Belarus and 41 percent via Ukraine in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the equivalent period a year earlier. Gas inflow from the Nord Stream pipeline linking Russia with Germany fell by 60 percent in early June.

Europe’s wholesale electricity price averaged 201 euros per MWh in the first quarter of 2022, 281 percent higher than the equivalent period in 2021, the report noted.

Spain and Portugal registered the highest wholesale electricity price increases during this period, a 411 percent rise, followed by Greece (343%) and France (336%), the report noted.

IGB moves close to launch, ICGB consortium certified

The Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas pipeline has moved a step closer towards its launch, expected around the end of this month, following the completion of a certification procedure for the ICGB consortium behind the project.

The European Commission, according to information made available, has approved a certification application submitted by the Greek Regulatory Authority for Energy, RAE, and its Bulgarian counterpart, EWRC.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Bulgarian leader Kiril Petkov will both attend the project’s inauguration ceremony in Komotini, northeastern Greece, this Friday, ahead of the project’s commercial launch towards the end of the month.

The two leaders are expected to highlight this project’s contribution to the EU’s ongoing effort to end the continent’s reliance on Russia’s Gazprom.

The IGB gas pipeline will offer an alternative natural gas route into Bulgaria, initially via the TAP route and, from autumn onwards, through Greece’s gas grid. From 2023, the IGB will serve as a gateway for LNG imports from coastal FSRUs in the region. LNG quantities will reach Bulgaria, Romania, even Ukraine, through pipeline interconnections.

Strategic reserve mechanism application to be withdrawn

The energy ministry intends to withdraw its application submitted to the European Commission for a strategic reserve mechanism as a result of the government’s recent decision to revise its withdrawal plan for the country’s lignite-fired power stations in order to permit operations until 2028 instead of 2025, as was planned.

Under the original plan, the strategic reserve mechanism would have been introduced to maintain lignite-fired power stations under the control of power grid operator IPTO for energy contributions during periods of high demand.

Within the framework of these developments, the government is also considering to withdraw a compensation application for power utility PPC’s premature withdrawal of lignite-fired power stations.

PPC’s plan entailed shutting down all existing lignite-fired power stations by the end of 2023.

However, the government is being forced to delay its decarbonization strategy as a result of the steep rise in gas prices prompted by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

PPC awaits Brussels energy strategy to decide on Ptolemaida V

Power utility PPC will wait for the European Commission’s finalized decisions on a strategic plan intended to end the EU’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels before it decides on the operating and conversion details of its prospective Ptolemaida V power station in northern Greece, to be launched as a lignite-fired facility before being converted to natural gas.

The PPC board is now expected to decide on Ptolemaida V’s conversion date towards the end of this year, according to sources.

Ptolemaida V, expected to undergo a trial run in the second half of the year before being launched late in the year or early in 2023, will be introduced as Greece’s last lignite-fired power station.

Early in April, prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced extensions to withdrawal dates for older lignite-fired power stations that were originally headed for closure prior to 2025. At the time, the prime minister also informed that Ptolemaida V could now operate as a lignite-fired unit until 2028.

Revisions to the country’s decarbonization plan have been prompted by energy security concerns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the exacerbation of the preceding energy crisis as a result of this war.

The Greek government has decided to increase lignite mining output as a safety measure should Russia interrupt its natural gas supply.

A year ago, PPC had announced it intended to convert Ptolemaida V into a natural gas-fired facility as of 2025, but the latest energy security concerns froze this plan.


NECP officials at odds over future gas role in Greece

Local authorities are at odds over the role of natural gas in the country’s National Energy and Climate Plan, to be revised, as well as on the decarbonization road map for the coming decades.

A second session just held by an energy ministry working group assembled for the NECP revisions has revealed contrasting views on the future plans for natural gas in Greece, energypress sources have informed.

One side of the working group’s members wants an end to the expansion of natural gas in Greece and containment of investments for new natural gas infrastructure, especially networks.

At the other end, a second group of officials supports that Europe’s intention to end the continent’s reliance on Russian natural gas highlights the need for diversification of energy sources in Greece, as the country’s system is designed based on the assumption of Russia being a key supplier of natural gas.

This group also noted that Greece, based on the new European energy plan, stands to become a main gateway for natural gas to the wider region and, as a result, is favorably positioned for related gas infrastructure investments worth 10 billion euros, through the REPowerEU plan, prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


LNG order costs fall as much as 40% below TTF prices

The cost of LNG orders placed in recent days has fallen 10 to 40 percent below levels at the Dutch TTF exchange, driven lower by fine weather around Europe and subdued demand in Asia as a result of lockdown restrictions imposed over the past two months by authorities in China, insisting on a zero-Covid policy.

LNG price levels are also lower at the TTF exchange, easing to levels between 93.5 and 94 euros per MWh, the lowest since February.

Market pressure has also eased as a decision by Ukraine to disrupt a pipeline supplying Russian gas to Europe has had less negative impact than initially feared.

Ukraine’s decision, believed to have been taken to pressure the West for stricter sanctions against Russia, prompted Russia’s Gazprom to find a bypass solution through alternative routes to the EU.

These developments could lead to a significant reduction in wholesale electricity prices as a result of less price pressure faced by electricity producers.

The duration of China’s lockdown will greatly shape LNG market developments. For the time being, LNG orders that had been intended for China are being redirected to Europe.

Though supply to Asia has fallen considerably from high levels recorded just months ago, LNG demand typically increases in China, Japan and South Korea during summer.


Alexandroupoli FSRU development launch today, pivotal project

Development of the Alexandroupoli FSRU in Greece’s northeast, a project promising to boost energy security by broadening energy source diversification for Greece and the wider Balkan region, is scheduled to officially commence today.

The prime ministers of Greece and Bulgaria, as well as Serbia’s president, will attend today’s official ceremony. The leaders will highlight the need for energy source diversification in the Balkans and reduced reliance on Russian natural gas.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU promises to establish Greece as a gas hub for transportation of LNG into the EU.

Natural gas consumption in southeast Europe totals between 10 and 11 bcm annually, half this amount provided by Russia.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU, expected to be ready to operate by the end of 2023, is planned to offer a capacity of approximately 5.5 bcm, greatly diversifying gas supply to southeast Europe.

The project is budgeted at 380 million euros, of which 166.7 million euros will be provided through the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).

The Alexandroupoli FSRU will be linked with Greece’s gas grid via a 28-km pipeline, enabling gas supply to Greece, Bulgaria and the wider region, including Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia, Moldavia and Ukraine.