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.

Continuation of energy strategy minister’s guide at Cairo forum

Recently appointed energy minister Costis Hatzidakis will formally commence work on promoting Greece’s international energy relations at his first meetings abroad, today and tomorrow, at the East Med Gas Forum in Cairo.

The minister, in recent speeches, has already made clear his interest in supporting a national strategy shaped to bolster the country’s energy security, elevate its geopolitical role and fuel economic growth.

Strategic partnerships with Cyprus, the USA, Israel and Egypt will play a pivotal role in this effort.

Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority will all be represented at the Cairo forum.

Hatzidakis, Greece’s energy minister, is also expected to discuss energy partnerships and regional security with US energy secretary Rick Perry, who is in the Egyptian capital as part of a tour of the east Mediterranean.

Development of the submarine East Med gas pipeline, a project promising security and stability for the wider region, is a leading priority  for Greece.

On a wider level, the minister can be expected to carry on supporting a national strategy pursued over the past decade to establish Greece as a pivotal energy player in the region and key problem solver of regional energy partnership issues.

As for other major energy infrastructure projects, the new Greek government will continue to provide national support for the swift completion of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), planned to transport Caspian natural gas to Europe, and the Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas grid interconnector. Other investment plans such as the Alexandroupoli FSRU and the Kavala underground gas storage facility will also keep receiving the support of Greece’s administration.

DEPA awaiting Gazprom news for lower gas price, LNG a market hit

Gas utility DEPA, which has asked for a lower natural gas supply price from Gazprom, can expect a response around June 15, the Russian gas giant has informed.

DEPA was driven to action by extremely low spot-market prices for LNG currently available in Europe.

Major European hubs, such as the TTF facility in the Netherlands, are currently offering prices of 10.928 euros per MWh, compared to Gazprom’s supply contract for the Balkans, including Greece, of approximately 20 euros per MWh.

It remains to be seen how DEPA will respond if the price-related news from Gazprom is not favorable.

LNG is projected to have captured roughly 55 percent of western European energy markets five years from now, up from approximately 40 percent last year, authorities told a recent forum in Brussels.

According to the World Energy Council, LNG will capture a 51 percent share of the global market by 2025, from 25 percent in 2000 and 45 percent in 2018, as a result of new production line investments in the USA, Qatar and Australia.

Lower LNG prices have coincided with an upgrade at the LNG terminal on Revythoussa, an islet just off Athens, resulting in its capacity increase to 220,000 cubic meters. This has enabled bigger incoming shipments.

So far this year, LNG shipments have arrived from Qatar and the USA. More are expected.

Meanwhile, DEPA’s domestic market share for LNG supply is on a downward trajectory and currently at around 30 percent as a result of intensifying competition.

Three-way summit to support ambitious East Med project

The leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel are expected to unite for a joint statement in support of the East Med natural gas pipeline’s development as well as the reinforcement of regional energy security at a summit in Jerusalem this Wednesday, where they will be joined by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The anticipated declaration by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his respective Cypriot and Israeli counterparts, Nicos Anastasiades and Benjamin Netanhyahu, will represent yet another step towards the development of East Med, promising a transportation route for regional natural gas to  EU markets.

Pompeo’s presence at the forthcoming three-way summit, combined with ExxonMobil’s recently declared intention to take part in a new round of Israeli tenders offering licenses, make clear Washington’s determination for a leading role in the Mediterranean.

Discoveries of major natural gas fields in the region and plans for EU-bound transportation routes have increased US interest.

However, many obstacles still lie ahead for the East Med pipeline. These include Italy’s step back as a result of objections expressed by Italy’s Five Star Movement, a member of the country’s far-right coalition. Italy’s environmental ministry has ordered a new environmental impact study for Italy’s Otranto seaside location, where East Med is planned to reach.

Greece, Cyprus and Israel now appear to be examining alternative East Med routes towards Europe, the most favorable option being North Macedonia.

Though Egypt expressed support for East Med last week, Cairo plans to utilize the country’s LNG terminals with the aim of exporting gas in liquefied form. This infrastructure would have an advantage over East Med.

East Med’s commercial feasibility is another concern. Quantities and customers still need to be assured.

 

 

East Med pipeline prospects bolstered by Egyptian support

Egypt’s constructive participation in talks for the development of the East Med natural gas pipeline, planned to carry Cypriot, Israeli and, possibly, Egyptian natural gas to the EU via Greece and Italy, has created favorable prospects for the realization of a project promising to play a pivotal role on the southeast Mediterranean energy map.

US support for the project and an effort by participating countries to ensure ExxonMobil’s involvement are also bolstering the East Med’s development prospects.

Last month, Egypt’s petroleum minister Tarek El-Molla had told Cyprus News Agency his country is not interested in participating in the East Med project with its Zohr natural gas deposit.

However, the Egyptian minister changed his tune yesterday at Ceraweek 2019, an international energy in Houston, Texas, noting Egypt will support the East Med project.

Quite clearly, Egypt is looking to establish yet another alternative supply route for its Zohr field, an enormous natural gas discovery, to major consumer markets of the west.

Prior to expressing support for East Med, El-Molla took part in a meeting with his Greek, Israeli and Cypriot counterparts – Giorgos Stathakis, Yuval Steinitz and Giorgos Lakkotrypis, respectively – and US energy under secretary Mark Menezes, at the Houston event.

All four officials confirmed their support for the East Med gas pipeline, according to a statement released by Greece’s energy ministry.

Stathakis, Greece’s energy minister, also held a separate meeting yesterday with ExxonMobil officials for talks on developments concerning the oil major’s hydrocarbon exploration interests at offshore blocks west and southwest of Crete – through a consortium established with Total and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) – and the East Med project, energypress sources informed.

 

Greek-Cypriot-Israeli deal for East Med pipeline likely this month

A three-way agreement between Greece, Cyprus and Israel for the development of the East Med natural gas pipeline, planned to carry Cypriot and Israeli natural gas to the EU via Greece and Italy, appears increasingly likely to be signed by the leaders of the three countries at a Tel Aviv summit scheduled for March 20.

A draft of the planned agreement is currently being fine-tuned in Brussels.

Despite the emergence of a growing number of reports contending an agreement is near, objections expressed by Italy’s Five Star Movement, a member of the country’s far-right coalition, could turn into a problem for the East Med pipeline plan.

Italy’s environmental ministry has ordered a new environmental impact study for Italy’s Otranto seaside location, where East Med is planned to reach. Incidentally, the TAP project to carry gas from Azerbaijan to the EU is also planned to reach this spot. The Five Star Movement has also raised environmental concerns over this project.

Lebanon is another country in the region opposing East Med as a result of its ongoing EEZ dispute with Israel. Turkey, not on good terms with Israel and unsettled by the evolving Israeli-Cypriot cooperation, also opposes the project. Cyprus is continuing its hydrocarbon exploration activities, adding to Turkey’s concerns.

Meanwhile, Greek energy minister Giorgos Stathakis arrived in Houston, Texas yesterday to take part in Ceraweek 2019, an international energy conference running until Friday.

Stathakis is scheduled to take part in a panel discussion tomorrow on east Mediterranean developments following recent natural gas discoveries by Cyprus and Israel. His Cypriot, Israeli and Egyptian counterparts will also join this panel.

Sideline talks, by these officials, on regional energy matters are expected.

Ministry, DG Comp talks on PPC sale terms not over yet

Negotiations between the energy ministry and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition for an agreement on the revised terms of the main power utility PPC’s follow-up effort to sell lignite units will continue this week but are not expected to exceed it as a crucial Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers is scheduled for next Monday, March 11.

PPC’s lignite disinvestment is a pending bailout requirement. It is one of the key commitments for the release, by the country’s lenders, of a one-billion euro tranche.

Throughout the previous week, the talks between the energy ministry and the DG Comp were said to be nearing a deal. The fundamentals of the new sale’s revised terms, to feature improved conditions for investors following the initial effort’s failure, have been set but participation details concerning new entrants still need to be clarified, sources explained.

“The main objective of the two sides is to resolve whatever pending issues remain in a way that will maximize the sale’s chances of success this time around,” one source informed.

PPC is also making a committed effort for a successful follow-up sale. Last week, the utility’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis provided the European Commission with a letter listing a series of factors he sees as crucial to the disinvestment’s success.

Panagiotakis drew attention to an EU law limiting investment activity of non-EU investors, which he views as an obstacle for the sale. Russian, Chinese and American players of repute are interested in the PPC sale, according to the PPC boss, currently in Beijing for talks with Chinese firms.

DEPA-Cheniere LNG supply deal negotiations reach advanced stage

Gas utility DEPA and US energy exporter Cheniere have reached an advanced stage in negotiations for a long-term LNG supply agreement that could result in a five-year deal, according to sources.

A 150,000-cubic meter spot-market purchase made by DEPA from the Texas-based company towards the end of last year kindled the current negotiations for a longer-term agreement between the two sides, energypress sources informed.

The US has made clear its interest to establish Greece as a gateway for American LNG into Balkan markets. The US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, has often made reference to the prospect.

A supply agreement between DEPA and Cheniere would further diversify the Greek gas utility’s sources, currently dominated by Russian natural gas and LNG from Algeria.

DEPA has reserved a one-billion cubic meter capacity through the TAP route as of 2020, when the new gas pipeline carrying natural gas from Azerbaijan is expected to begin operating. The prospect should enable DEPA to offer domestic-market customers more competitive prices and further penetrate Balkan markets, via the IGB Greek-Bulgarian pipeline, to connect with TAP.

The ongoing DEPA-Cheniere talks have not swept Algeria’s Sonatrach out of the picture, sources stressed. DEPA’s current supply agreement with Sonatrach expires in 2020 and the two sides are already discussing a renewal.

DEPA agreements with Cheniere and Sonatrach, combined with Azerbaijani gas supply through TAP, promise to place the Greek gas utility in a more favorable position opposite Russia’s Gazprom, its main supplier.

Strong US interest can be expected in local RES market, ambassador tells

American investor interest can be expected to be strong for opportunities in Greece’s renewable energy market, the US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, has told an American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce event, at its Thessaloniki branch, for the New Year.

Though the ambassador did not elaborate, he presumably had a number of companies in mind.

Tesla has already revealed its interest in the Greek market through a microgrid proposal for the country’s non-interconnected islands dubbed Powerpack. It is based on solar panels and large-capacity batteries. Tesla officials met with Greece’s energy minister Giorgos Stathakis early last month to discuss the issue.

Another highly-ranked US diplomat, speaking on the sidelines of the Thessaloniki event, informed that beyond Tesla, further American interest in Greece’s RES market should also be expected from a major Chicago-based company active in wind energy production and storage. An additional one or two US companies could also enter the picture, according to this diplomat.

Three major companies active in wind energy production and storage are based in Chicago. Acciona, one of the three, has operated two wind energy parks with a total installed capacity of 48.45 MW at the Panachaic mountain range in Greece’s northern Peloponnese since 2006.

Akuo Energy, a French-American venture operating 44 projects in various parts of Europe, is believed to have renewed its interest in Greece’s RES market following activity here in the past.

Invenergy, the third Chicago-based firm, has maintained an office in Athens but shown no signs of any local activity since 2007. Pyatt, the US Ambassador of Greece, recently mentioned visiting the Invenergy headquarters in Chicago last October.

Mytilineos orders American LNG, energy hub role seen

The country’s second ever American LNG shipment, a 170,000-cubic meter order placed by Mytilineos that represents the first to be made by a private-sector company, is scheduled to dock at the Revythoussa islet terminal just off Athens on February 1.

A follow-up LNG order by a private-sector company would soon be made, a highly-ranked US diplomat told local media yesterday, adding the emergence of US gas in the wider region via Greece and the Revythoussa terminal carries a significant geostrategic dimension.

The arrival of American gas here reflects Washington’s vision of Greece as a prospective energy hub, the official noted, underlining the energy sector was a key matter in bilateral talks between the two countries last month.

The Mytilineos group has played a key role in ensuring the Greek grid’s sufficiency from early January, when temperatures around the country began dropping, until today, the scheduled arrival date of a new DEPA gas utility order from Algeria.

Over the past fortnight, crucial energy injections by the Mytilineos group into the Greek system have helped cover record-breaking levels of electricity demand.

The DEPA and Mytilineos LNG orders represent a change of dynamics in Greece and constitute a market reality, the US diplomat asserted.

 

 

Three-way East Med gas pipeline deal reached, US keen

The leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel have reached an agreement to develop the East Med natural gas pipeline, planned to carry enormous southeast Mediterranean natural gas deposits to the EU via Greece. They met today at the Israeli city Beersheba for a fifth summit on the issue.

The project’s development plan still needs to be endorsed by the European Commission before a final agreement is signed by the three countries. This is expected in the the first quarter of 2019.

The European Commission has already received the project’s details and is expected to offer its approval early in 2019.

Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, joined by energy minister Giorgos Stathakis for the Israel trip, and the respective leaders of Cyprus and Israel, Nicos Anastasiades and Benjamin Netanyahu, are scheduled to sign related memorandums later in the day.

In the lead-up to today’s session, diplomats had described the meeting as one of the last pre-construction steps for the East Med project.

A disputed electricity grid interconnection project involving the three countries has not been included on today’s agenda. Greek authorities awarded Ariadne Interconnector, an SPV established by Greek power grid operator IPTO, control of the Greek-Cypriot-Israeli project’s Crete-Athens segment, despite European Commission objections.

Brussels favors Euroasia Interconnector, a consortium of Cypriot interests heading the wider Greek-Cypriot-Israeli project, for control of its Crete-Athens segment.

The East Med natural gas pipeline, whose cost has been estimated at 7 billion dollars, promises to be the world’s biggest submarine pipeline – in terms of length and depth.

The US has showed increased support for the project in recent times. US involvement in the project has not been excluded.

An annual gas transmission objective of 20 bcm has been set for East Med. EU natural gas needs have been forecast to reach 100 bcm in 2030.

IGI Poseidon gas pipeline prospects on PM’s Moscow visit agenda

The development prospects of an IGI Poseidon gas pipeline though Greece’s north and across the Adriatic Sea to Italy as a supply route for Russian gas to Europe, a plan opposed by the US, is expected to be on the agenda of a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Russian President Vladimir Putin scheduled for December 7 on Moscow.

The majority of license-related procedures needed by Greek gas utility DEPA and Italy’s Edison for the IGI Poseidon gas pipeline have been completed, the two European firms informed Russia’s Gazprom at a recent three-way meeting in Moscow.

The IGI Poseidon gas pipeline is envisaged to serve as an extension of Turkish Stream.

DEPA and Edison officials are confident a gas pipeline route through Greece, rather than Bulgaria, as suggested by Moscow on occasions, carries definite advantages.

The Greek-Italian pipeline is technically mature as 80 percent of studies have been completed, while license applications have been submitted to energy sector regulatory authorities and Brussels, DEPA and Edison officials informed during their Gazprom meeting.

However, as was made apparent at this three-way meeting, all sides remain concerned as to whether the European Commission will raise objections against the pipeline plan. Washington is pressuring EU member states to find alternative natural gas supply sources not involving Russia.

In Greece, US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt is taking every opportunity to express America’s opposition to any further penetration by Gazprom of Greece’s energy sector.

Greek energy minister Giorgos Stathakis recently appeared hesitant on the prospect of a new pipeline to transmit Gazprom gas.

Much will depend on the outcome of an upcoming official US visit by Greece’s Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Giorgos Katrougalos between December 11 and 14. He will be joined by the energy ministry’s secretary general Mihalis Veriopoulos. DEPA and Edison will be waiting for political decisions concerning their Greek-Italian pipeline investment plan.

 

DEPA placing extra LNG order for bigger Revythoussa terminal

Gas utility DEPA is making arrangements with Algeria’s Sonatrach for a considerable additional LNG order to fill a new third storage tank at the upgraded LNG terminal on the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens, once the facility’s imminent commercial launch is staged.

This LNG shipment, entailing part of a 130,000-cubic meter order, comes as an addition to scheduled deliveries for the winter season’s heightened demand.

DEPA is now awaiting the LNG terminal’s launch, which has been delayed by a few weeks, to proceed with its extra Sonatrach order. The gas utility is keen to move ahead with the order as soon as possible to avoid any price fluctuations in the European energy market, currently volatile.

According to latest estimates, the upgraded Revythoussa terminal is expected to begin operating – commercially – in the second half of December, despite a preceding official launch ceremony, planned for November 22.

The terminal’s new storage tank will offer a 95,000-cubic meter capacity, boosting the facility’s overall capacity to 225,000 cubic meters. The upgrade promises to create new gas export potential to Balkan and southeast European markets.

According to a study conducted by Greek gas grid operator DESFA, the new Revythoussa terminal will be able to cover 30 percent of gas import needs in the Balkans, Slovenia and Hungary.

The US is currently seeking European gateways for shale gas exports. Besides catering to American gas trading interests, the upgraded Revythoussa terminal could, in the medium term, also facilitate gas quantities stemming from rich Cypriot and Israeli sources in the east Mediterranean.

 

DEPA seeking long-term supply agreement with US firm Cheniere

A long-term LNG supply agreement of between 15 and 20 years has been the main focus of negotiations over the past few months between Greek gas utility DEPA and US energy company Cheniere, primarily active in LNG-related businesses.

DEPA’s recently appointed chief executive Dimitris Tzortzis is seeking a delivery arrangement that would enable the gas utility to not only import gas into Greece but also trade LNG in international markets, to the extent permitted by global market conditions.

Tzortzis mentioned DEPA’s ongoing talks with Cheniere at the Southeast Energy Forum in Thessaloniki last Friday without elaborating further.

The DEPA boss told the event that the two sides have already established a spot cargo LNG agreement for 2018.

DEPA intends to renegotiate existing agreements with gas suppliers Sonatrach, Botas and Gazprom and also assume a trading role in the natural gas market, DEPA officials have commented when asked if the Greek market has capacity for further gas amounts.

At present, DEPA is supplied an annual natural gas amount of 2.2 billion cubic meters by Gazprom. This deal expires in 2026. Sonatrach supplies between 0.55 and one billion cubic meters in a deal ending 2021, when an arrangement with Turkey’s Botas for 0.75 billion cubic meters, annually, also expires.

In 2020, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is expected to bring a further one billion cubic meters of Azeri natural gas into the Greek market.

ELPE acts against any possible fallout of US sanctions on Iran

ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) has stopped placing new Iranian crude orders and also settled the biggest part of an older outstanding amount owed to the country’s state-run oil company as protection against any negative fallout that could result from US President Donald Trump’s new sanctions against Iran, announced in May.

Like other petroleum firms in various countries, ELPE reached its decision to stop ordering Iranian crude to safeguard itself against a variety of problems, including exclusion from transactions, with American banks and oil companies.

The US president has issued a strong warning to anyone trading with Iran, following his re-imposition of sanctions on the country.

“Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States,” the president tweeted.

Some re-imposed sanctions have just taken effect and tougher ones relating to oil exports will begin in November.

The EU, China and India have announced they do not intend to follow the American example and impose sanctions on Iran, as they had done in 2012, when the US last imposed sanctions on the country, international news agencies have reported over the past few days. However, all three could end up succumbing to market pressure if their oil firms find themselves in danger of being blocked out of US financial and oil markets.

Returning to ELPE, the Greek petroleum firm has already taken action to fill the void created by its decision to stop placing Iranian crude orders. A wider strategy adopted by the firm’s administration to diversify crude supply sources for ELPE’s three refineries – two west of Athens in Aspropyrgos and Elefsina, as well as a third facility in Thessaloniki – has helped cover the shortage.

According to ELPE’s annual economic report for 2017, Iranian and Iraqi crude represented 22 percent of total orders placed by the Greek firm. Russia and Kazakhstan each represented 10 percent of ELPE’s crude orders in 2017, Saudi Arabia supplied 5 percent, Mediterranean countries provided 9 percent, as did Libya, Egypt’s share was 4 percent, while various other countries supplied 13 percent.

Iranian crude exports declined by 300,000 bpd (barrels per day) to 2.3 million bpd in July as a result of reduced orders by European refineries, according to international news agency reports. Officials in Washington anticipate Iran’s crude exports could drop to a level of less than one million bpd.

 

 

 

EBRD link to DESFA sale carrying geopolitical dimension

A US effort aiming to limit Russia’s influence over European energy matters is believed to be behind the participation of the EBRD, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, in a tender offering a 66 percent stake of DESFA, Greece’s natural gas grid operator.

Last Friday morning, just hours ahead of an afternoon deadline set for binding bids, the EBRD board, confirming previous energypress reports, decided it would join one of the two bidding teams in contention for the DESFA stake. The team is headed by Spain’s Regasificadora del Noroeste (Reganosa) and includes Romania’s Transgaz.

This consortium is up against a team led by Italy’s Snam and also comprised of Spain’s Enagas, Belgium’s Fluxys as well as Dutch operator Gasunie, which is expected to withdraw from this four-member team.

Headquartered in London, the EBRD, established in 1991 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, is currently owned by 65 countries and two European institutions – the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the EU. The role of the US, one of the EBRD’s co-owners, in the bank’s decisions is highly influential.

DESFA’s sale has taken on a geopolitical dimension, as was made apparent at last week’s Athens Energy Forum event. US energy-sector interests in the wider region were made clear at the event. As has been the case in the past, the US, closely monitoring regional developments, is continuing to place major emphasis on a policy pushing for energy source diversification and retreat from the Russian sphere of political and economic influence.

A leading US embassy finance official, speaking at the Athens Energy Forum, noted that the exploitation of energy-sector matters as a means for applying political pressure is a classic Moscow strategy.

The diplomat noted that the two pillars supporting Europe’s energy strategy – source diversification and supply security – are reducing the continent’s dependence on Russia and limiting the ability of any country to exploit the energy sector as a political tool.

Such thoughts strongly suggest that the EBRD’s involvement in the DESFA tender carries a geopolitical dimension, besides boosting the Reganosa-led consortium’s chances.

The levels of the binding offers submitted by the two remaining participants last Friday afternoon are expected to be announced within the next few days.

It remains to be seen whether the wider developments surrounding DESFA are in any way related to growing rumors of a planned capacity increase of over 10 bcm for TAP, as soon as construction of this natural gas pipeline, running across northern Greece, is completed.

 

 

 

Chinese, US investors buying local Euroenergy RES interests

The Libra Group, an international corporate group active in energy, aviation, hospitality, real estate, shipping and diversified investments that is wholly-owned by the Logothetis family, is selling a portion of its Greek RES interests.

According to energypress sources, the group intends to hold on to about one third of its local PV investments and one quarter of local wind energy interests.

A Chinese firm is believed to have secured the PV units placed for sale by the Libra Group while a powerful US fund, already prominently placed in the Greek market, is expected to add the group’s wind energy units to its portfolio.

Interestingly, Euroenergy, the group’s company handling renewable energy investments in Europe, has spent the past three to four years working to strengthen its portfolio through acquisitions of developed wind parks and project licenses.

In 2016, Euroenergy bought three wind parks possessing a total capacity of 120 MW from French group EDF.

The Libra Group is expected to use the proceeds of the sales to cover loans.

Euroenergy maintains a prominent RES portfolio in Greece, Romania and Latvia. The Libra Group’s  investments in Greece also include the Grace boutique hotel chain as well as a series of investments held  independently and with partners.

US reacts to Russian LNG in Boston, European shale battle rising

The delivery of Russian LNG to freezing Boston, a psychological blow for US authorities, has prompted American officials to highlight the country’s major shale gas and oil production prospects for 2018.

Pundits noted that Washington is finding it increasingly difficult to remind European countries such as the UK, Portugal and France, which have already purchased Russian LNG from the Yamal station in northern Siberia, that they cannot only use ecomomic criteria in their dealings with Russsia and, as a result, breach sanctions imposed on the country.

Walter Peeraer, president of TAP, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline project, whose development is now approaching completion, intervened by stressing the pipeline’s plans do not entail transmitting Gazprom gas, despite an interest expressed by the Russian giant to do so.

In preceding remarks, French and Dutch officials noted that incoming Russian LNG is not being used in their countries but, instead, was reloaded on tankers to be sold to other markets offering greater profit. These destinations were not specified.

According to Bloomberg, it is not certain whether the aforementioned Russian LNG shipment to Boston represents the order’s final destination. The order was shipped from the UK by French firm Engie.

Responding to this delivery, the US International Information Adminstration, which has spearheaded the wider American reaction, declared that US oil production is expected to reach an average of 10.3 million barrels per day in 2018, a 970,000 bpd increase compared to 2017. Such a performance would easily surpass the previous US record of 9.6 million bpd, set in 1970 under the Nixon administration. American shale oil production is expected to reach 11 million bpd in 2019.

The major US oil production level forecast for 2018 promises to undermine efforts by OPEC and Russia to reduce oil production by 1.8 million bpd in an effort to boost prices levels.

Last night, the price of Brent crude reached 69.24 dollars a barrel in New York, its highest level since 2014.

The International Information Adminstration believes Brent prices, which averaged 54 dollars a barrel in 2017, will reach an average of 60 dollars a barrel in 2018 and 61 dollars a barrel in 2019.

Though American shale oil and gas prospects appear rosy, the cross-Atlantic prospects in the UK are far less promising. Efforts made by petroleum firms to convince the UK government and public of the need to exploit shale gas deposits, which could offer energy supply to Great Britain for the next 25 years, continue to face major obstacles.

The Scottish government has already banned fracking as a means of extracting shale gas while the UK public’s environmental concerns are particularly acute.

Ineos, the petrochemicals group headed by Jim Ratcliffe, is preparing to file a legal case against the Scottish government for abuse of ministerial power. Further south, in central England, companies such as Cuadriilla, Third Energy and IGas Energy, are preparing to launch campaigns in 2018 with the aim of convincing the UK public that shale gas extraction is not environmentally hazardous.

US ambassador visits LNG terminal, anticipating exports to Greece

The US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, recently visited Greece’s LNG terminal on Revythoussa, the islet just off Athens, in anticipation of American LNG exports to Greece.

Following his visit to the facility, whose capacity is currently being increased with the addition of a third tank, the US ambassador noted that he hopes the upgrade will “make Greece the third European importer of American LNG,” following Poland and Lithuania.

Pyatt was shown around the Revythoussa facility by Sotiris Nikas, president and managing director of DESFA, Greece’s natural gas grid operator.

He described the facility as “impressive” and had a close-up look at the construction work in progress for the terminal’s new tank.

Earlier this week, Pyatt, who spoke at the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Greek Economy Conference”, stressed US firms are clearly interested in the country’s energy sector, while adding the US government is encouraging collaboration between Greek and American energy enterprises.

It appears the prospect of American LNG imports by Greece was discussed between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and American president Donald Trump during the Greek leader’s recent official visit to the US.

Pyatt has also taken initiatives to support such a development as part of a wider effort to bolster the US’s role in the European energy market.

Two US firms have already declared an interest to participate in a new DEPA (Public Gas Corporation) tender for additional LNG quanties between 2018 and 2020.

Also, US firm Tellurian Energy recently expressed an interest to enter a consortium planning to develop a floating LNG terminal (FSRU) in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece.

 

 

Iranian crude buyers brace for prospect of new US sanctions

The latest deterioration of US-Iran relations, prompted by US President Donald Trump’s policy shift towards the country since taking office, is likely to impact the global oil market, including supply to Greece, as the possible cancellation of a bilateral nuclear agreement between the two countries, which would lead to new US trade sanctions against Iran, cannot be dismissed.

A previous embargo imposed on the country had disrupted Iranian ol exports, forcing long-time buyers, including ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), to turn elsewhere for supply.

The establishment of a nuclear agreement in 2016 enabled Iran to resume its oil exports. At present, these cover approximately 25 percent of ELPE’s needs.

According to Platts, the energy and commodities information provider, numerous Asian buyers of Iranian crude are preparing for the prospect of a new embargo. Some of these countries are believed to be looking at solutions that would restrict oil imports.

The pressure now being felt by buyers as a result of the unstable climate could prompt them to seek improved supply deals, sector pundits believe.

The US president is expected to discuss issues concerning Iran next week.

New trade sanctions on the country would be embraced by OPEC members as the resulting global oil supply reduction would raise international oil prices and, as a result, enable the cartel to relax or even end an agreement between its members to cut back on output.

ELPE close to US shale oil deal, company chief to visit US

Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) has reached an advanced stage in talks with US oil industry officials for a shale oil order that would represent the first ever shipment of US oil to Greece, sources have informed.

A planned trip to the US by ELPE managing director Grigoris Stergioulis in just over a week from now will coincide with a US visit by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, scheduled to meet with US president Donald Trump.

The ELPE head, expected to travel with Tsipras, is scheduled to hold meetings in Chicago on October 14 and Washington on October 17.

ELPE may have finalized a US shale oil deal prior to the trip, according to sources. The shale oil would be refined into gasoline and diesel at the ELPE facilities and sold in the Greek market.

The Greek refinery has already joined forces with US oil giant ExxonMobil and France’s Total for an international tender offering exploration and exploitation licenses for offshore blocks west and southwest of Crete. This procedure is still in progress.

Shale oil has brought drastic changes to the global oil industry in recent years. The US, possessing enormous shale oil deposits, especially in Texas, as well as other state such as Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, lifted an oil export ban in 2015 and has developed into one of the world’s main energy exporters.

This development has greatly contributed to the drop in oil prices, benefitting countries that import energy, both oil and natural gas.

US shale oil deposits cover a large part of the country’s domestic needs, making the country a net exporter.

 

 

 

Italy persisting with Poseidon plan despite US objections

Despite US concerns, Italy, citing the support of Brussels, is persisting with a plan aiming for the development of the IGI Poseidon pipeline, an older plan envisaged to transport Russian natural gas through Greece to southern Italy via a submarine Adriatic Sea crossing. This project would also incorporate Greek Stream, a pipeline option planned to run from the Greek-Turkish border. It is also referred to as Turkish Stream for its Turkish segment.

Highlighting Italy’s interest, the IGI Poseidon pipeline was included in a Greek-Italian declaration of cooperation signed yesterday between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni at a meeting on Corfu.

Italy, which has reached a series of agreements in recent times in support of the Poseidon pipeline – beginning with a memorandum of understanding signed in March between Eni and Gazprom for Russian gas supply via the Southern Corridor – contends that the project will not increase Russian gas supply to Europe. The objective, Italian officials support, is to relocate the delivery point of Russian natural gas from Italy’s north, via Austria, to the country’s south, seen as a lower-cost route.

The US may not favor this Russia-linked option but Italian officials are adamant as they believe that the TAP pipeline – currently being constructed to transport natural gas from the giant Shah Deniz II field in Azerbaijan to Europe via Greece’s north, Albania and across the Adriatic Sea to Italy – cannot satisfy Italy’s energy needs, both in terms of quantity and cost. In addition, the submarine IGI Poseidon plan is already fully licensed from the past.

Just days ago, the US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, speaking at a conference in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, criticized Russia for increased meddling in the Balkans. The US is increasingly viewing Greece as crucial in its effort to counter Moscow’s dominance in southeast Europe.

 

Greece crucial in west’s effort to limit Russian energy influence

The US is increasingly viewing Greece as a platform capable of supporting American energy interests in the wider region, a development that would stifle Russia’s current energy-related dominance. This outlook ultimately upgrades Greece’s geostrategic role in the region.

This American perception of the wider region was made clear yet again yesterday by the US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, during a speech delivered at the “1st Oil & Gas Forum” in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece. The event was organized by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce.

Signs of growing intervention by Russia in the domestic affairs of Balkan countries have prompted US officials to increase their monitoring of the region.

Closer ties being established between Balkan countries and the west, combined with the development of energy projects supporting western interests, promise to reduce the Balkan region’s energy dependence on Moscow, currently as high as 90 percent.

Pyatt, during yesterday’s energy conference in Alexandroupoli, noted that an attempt made last year to prevent Montenegro from becoming a NATO member – the accession process was completed just months ago, in June – was propelled by Russian concerns over Russia’s  potential loss of influence in energy regions. This remark reiterated a recent comment made on the issue by US Vice President Mike Pence.

Montenegro is now a NATO member, the new Fyrom (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) government appears to be distancing itself from the previous administration’s pro-Russian position, while Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia all find themselves at different stages along the EU accession course.

Energy projects of western interests, which, once completed, promise to reduce the region’s reliance on Russia, are now in full progress. Many of these projects carry Greek dimensions.

One of these, the TAP natural gas pipeline, to pass through Greece’s north, Albania and the Adriatic Sea across to Italy, promises to reform energy security in southeast Europe, Pyatt, the US Ambassador to Greece, told yesterday’s energy conference.

Pyatt expressed concerns over delays holding back the development of the IGB Greek-Bulgarian gas grid interconnection and extolled the roles to be played by a prospective FSRU in Alexandroupoli and extension of the existing LNG facility on Revythoussa, an islet just off Athens.

 

Slight local fuel price hike expected soon as a result of Hurricane Harvey

For the time being, the market impact of the catastrophic Hurricane Harvey that tore through parts of Texas several days ago has been limited to the US, where the natural disaster has prompted fuel shortages and gasoline price hikes.

Greek fuel prices have so far remained steady, averaging 1.488 euros per liter around the country on Sunday, despite the US disaster. However, local officials estimate that a slight fuel price hike can be expected to soon hit the Greek market.

A terminal in the coastal Texan city of Corpus Christi supplying significant shale oil and shale gas exports has been shut down as a result of the damages. According to current estimates, the Corpus Christi port facility is expected to be reopened next week, at best, possibly on Monday.

Besides this terminal, other major US refineries have also been forced to stop operating and it remains to be seen whether they will be able to resume production at full capacity in the short term.

Gasoline prices in the US have already increased to 1.7799 dollars per gallon, the highest level registered since 2015. WTI prices have also risen by 23 cents, a 0.5 percent increase.

Brent Oil prices have also hit an upward trajectory, rising by over 20 cents, or 0.4 percent, to 52.09 dollars a barrel.

Analysts noted that Hurricane Harvey managed to succeed where OPEC did not, when the cartel announced a cutback of its output with the aim of lifting prices to boost flagging oil revenues of member states.

The global impact of Hurricane Harvey remains opaque.

China imported approximately 130,000 barrels of crude from the US during the first seven-month period this year. The US ranks as the 15th biggest supplier of crude to the Chinese market.

In recent months, US oil exports reached levels of one million barrels per day. Roughly two-thirds of this amount hails from the coastal area affected by Hurricane Harvey.

The US also imports crude, whch makes determining the overall intermational effect of the disaster even more difficult to assess.

Besides Hurricane Harvey, the international market, especially the Mediterranean region, is currently also being impacted by reduced output at Libya’s biggest refinery, Zawiya, operating at half its full capacity as a result of a pipeline problem. Libya has temporarily halted exports from this facility.

 

US envoy displays interest in Greek, Bulgarian energy cooperation

The US Department of State’s Acting Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, Mary Warlick, expressed a strong interest in Bulgaria’s regional gas interconnection projects, especially the IGB, to link Greek and Bulgarian gas transmission systems, during a meeting with leading Bulgarian government officials.

The developing energy partnership between Greece and Bulgaria, seen as crucial for energy security in southeast Europe, has drawn the attention of the USA amid its rivalry with Russia.

Besides Greek-Bulgarian energy cooperation, Warlick and the Bulgarian officials, Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zakharieva, also discussed other Bulgarain strategic plans in the energy sector, such as gas transmission interconnections with Turkey, Serbia and Romania.

In comments following the meeting, Zakharieva stressed that these projects are pivotal for energy supply diversification, not only for Bulgaria but the entire southeast European region.

Commenting on the Greek-Bulgarian IGB project, Zakharieva noted that the project’s development would enable a natural gas link between Europe’s north and south. Transmission of major Azerbaijani natural gas amounts, exceeding one billion cubic meters, would be possible once the Trans Adriatic pipeline begins operating, the Bulgarian official informed.

The IGB project also dominated a meeting in Sofia several days ago between Greek energy minister Giorgos Stathakis and his Bulgarian counterpart Temenuzhka Petkova. The two officials agreed on a final IGB market test to take place in autumn. Gas traders will be expected to submit binding bids for allocation of pipeline capacity.

Respective National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funding available to the two countries through the EU funding program has been ensured for the IGB project.

 

China undisputed climate change, RES leader following US withdrawal

The US withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, announced yesterday by the recently elected President Donald Trump, leaves China as the world’s undisputed leader in the quest to reduce CO2 emissions and promote renewable energy production.

Trump’s decision comes at a time when the EU has set ambitious targets concerning RES development, CO2 emission reductions and energy efficiency, and China has poured the greatest amounts to achieve such objectives.

The world’s main greengouse gas polluters, namely the US, China and EU member states, carry greater responsibility on the global stage as their behavior sets the example for others.

The US withdrawal will impact the Paris climate agreement on a number of levels. The international pact, which, prior to yesterday, was missing just Syria and Nicaragua, has now been left without the support of the world’s biggest ever CO2 polluter, and second biggest at present. The US will not be subject to any restrictions concerning emission reductions until 2020, at least. This prospect, along with other similar-minded US initiatives taken by the Tump-led US administration, including its withdrawn support for climate change research, all combine to mean that the US will, from now on, be left to walk in isolation.

Certain pundits contend that, depsite yesterday’s US walkout, the global trend towards clean energy and emission reduction policies also makes economic sense and, as a result, will continue being supported in the US, regardless of Trump’s intentions.

The US President’s climate pact withdrawal is also expected to make major political impact on an international scale, providing further impetus for China’s development as the world leader. The amounts invested by this country to counter climate change are staggering.

China is seeking to establish a new model for economic and industrial growth, which the country will aim to export along with its technology. The Chinese model shares certain similarities when compared to its European equivalent but many aspects differ. The absence of the US in this department will allow China to move freeely and have a greater influence on global developments.

At the same time, Trump’s climate change isolation should enable the US to export fossil fuels at competitive prices, which, to a certain degree, will affect the RES sector’s level of competitiveness.

The main objective of the Paris climate agreement is to limit global warming to a maximum average of 2 degrees Celsius. The absence of the US from the pact for at least four years, or eight if Trump is re-elected for a second term, greatly reduces the probability of this target being achieved, given the scale of the US. This increases the threat of irreparable environmental damage in the future.

 

 

Last winter’s OPEC production cutback falling short of objectives

It may be too soon to measure the impact on the international crude market of an OPEC decision reached last winter to cut back on output, but current indications suggest the move’s objectives are not been reached.

OPEC, backed by Russia, decided to lower output with the objective of diminishing increased international crude reserves and offering support to oil price levels. The OPEC initiative also had another strategic objective in mind, to maintain long-term control for the cartel, or, more specifically, Saudi Arabia, over the international market, now subject to changing forces.

Several months on, output has been restricted by 1.2 million bpd and oil reserves have been reduced at a slower-than-expected rate, as higher prices ended up prompting the US to reinforce its output.

Two days ago, the Brent index stood slightly above 50 dollars, the level it was at on November 29, 2016, a day before the OPEC agreement was signed. Yesterday, the Brent index fell to just under 50 dollars.

Latest data has shown a rise in the number of oil drilling projects being conducted in the US. This is not good news for Riyadh, especially given the support being provided by the USA’s newly elected Republican administration, already moving to dismantle environmental restrictions as a means of boosting American output.

OPEC members are scheduled to meet next month to decide on whether to extend the cartel’s current output cutback, a six-month agreement. Analysts confidently forecast a renewal of the deal as, otherwise, oil prices could collapse.

From a wider perspective, the overall market conditions of recent times have served Saudi Arabia’s interests well. Low oil prices of the past two years or so have restricted international oil industry investments in new production to historic lows.

Even so, Riyadh cannot draw any conclusions for a few more years. Saudi Arabia needs a further boost amid a changing environment in which the role and impact of OPEC in the international oil market has clearly changed. Long-term prospects suggest the cartel will need to try and salvage whatever it can from a glorious past.

 

 

Greek-Israeli-US naval exercise in area of major energy interest

A trilateral naval exercise between the Greek, Israeli and American navies, dubbed Noble Dina, is planned to begin later this month with nearly a dozen surface ships, submarines and related air assets to engage in joint reconnaissance, counterterror and antisubmarine warfare training.

The exercise will be staged in an area that has produced major hydrocarbon discoveries in recent times and already led to major investments. Two major energy infrastructure projects of Greek interest, the East Med gas pipeline, to link Greece, Israel and Cyprus all the way to the Italian coast, and the Eurasia Interconnector, planned to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids, will be developed in a wider area to serve as part of the arena for the upcoming naval exercise.

Cyprus will participate as an observer in the three-way drill, which is staged annually. It begins in Greece and will conclude in mid-April at the Israeli Navy headquarters in Haifa.

“It’s one of our most important exercises that allows us to hone our proficiencies in very complex scenarios,” Commander Assaf Boneh, the head of international cooperation for the Israeli sea service, told Defense News. “We’ll be training in a vast area from Greece to Israel, and this gives us a lot of room to practice multiple scenarios that require jointness.”

Technical study for Alexandroupoli LNG unit by this summer

Technical studies for a floating LNG terminal being planned for Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, are expected to be completed by this coming summer.

The prospective project was described as one of pivotal importance for Europe’s energy security and US interests, Robin Dunnigan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy at the US Department of State’s Bureau of Energy Resources, noted yesterday following talks with officials at Gastrade, a Copelouzos corporate group company interested in the LNG unit’s development, as well as Greece’s energy minister Giorgos Stathakis.

The official pointed out that the US’s transformation from natural gas importer to exporter has led to a revision of the country’s outlook on the southeast European region and projects such as the prospective Alexandroupoli facility.

Dunnigan pointed out that annual US LNG exports are expected to exceed 100 billion cubic meters over the next five to seven years, increasing the country’s global market share in the sector to around 20 percent.

This prospect has increased the importance of the Alexandroupoli LNG station for US gas trading companies as the facility is being regarded as a gateway for American shale gas into the Balkans and central Europe.

The US energy official also noted that the US government plans to offer support to American firms planning to invest in Greece’s energy market, a remark interpreted as an indirect reference to Cheniere, which has expressed an interest to export LNG and supply the wider Balkans via the prospective Alexandroupoli facility. To date, Cheniere has already completed sixteen American LNG shipments to Europe.

Work on the FEED (front-end engineering and design) technical study being conducted for the Alexandroupoli floating station began recently. Its expected completion by this coming summer will enable Gastrade to make a final investment decision by the end of 2017.

If all goes well, the Alexandroupoli facility, a floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) with a 170,000 cubic meter capacity planned for a location 17.6 km southwest of the Alexandroupoli port, will begin operating at the end of 2019.

Classified as an EU Project of Common Interest (PCI), the facility is planned to be incorporated with the region’s TAP pipeline and Greek-Bulgarian IGB interconnection.

 

Trump’s stance could reshape Europe’s foreign and energy policies

The election of Donald Trump to the US presidency may bring about changes to Europe’s energy and foreign policies if the new American leader insists on pursuing a path leading to isolationism and warmer ties with Russia.

As for the Russian part of the equation, speculation of Trump’s close personal and business associations with the Kremlin has become widely known. The disclosure of Russia’s alleged intervention in the US elections, the objective being to push Trump to power, has stunned the political landscape worldwide.

If these developments are transformed into foreign policy then major shifts in balances of power can be expected in regions such as Eastern Europe, the Middle East and central Asia.

Trump’s ongoing disparagement of NATO is not an encouraging sign for countries of the former eastern bloc. They view Russia with hesitancy and need allies, Ukraine being an obvious example.

A change of energy market roles for Russia and Ukraine would severely impact Europe’s energy policy. For many years now, Ukraine’s extensive pipeline network has been used by Russia to transmit its natural gas to Europe. However, as a result of troubled relations between Moscow and Kiev, the Kremlin has sought strategic independence from Ukraine over the past decade or so. Russia has been promoting the development of new gas supply lines to Europe such as Nord Stream 1 and 2, South Stream and Turkish Stream, all of which bypass Ukraine.

Russian wants to establish itself as a gas supplier to Europe via a seamless network, which would enable the country to increase its supply and control both networks and the market.

The European Commission claims it wants reduce its Russian energy dependence, despite the fact that consumption has increased, as highlighted by market data for 2016.

Brussels essentially does not want Russia to develop new pipelines as it fears Europe’s influence on energy issues will diminish. Another European fear is that Ukraine will be completely abandoned to Russian intentions. Ukraine’s pipeline network is its most powerful bargaining tool opposite Russia. If Trump insists on a pro-Russia policy, prompting a US-Ukraine split, then Europe will be Ukraine’s only remaining ally.