Crete offshore surveys by Total-led team late this year, early ’21

Intensified, follow-up seismic surveys by a Total-led consortium at two offshore licenses south and west of Crete will go ahead as scheduled late this year or early in 2021, sources have informed.

The exact commencement date will be determined by the availability of specialized research vessels and weather conditions. For now, preparations are progressing as planned.

France’s Total heads a three-member consortium for the two blocks off Crete, partnered by US giant ExxonMobil and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE).

Low shipping traffic in the region will enable hydrocarbon exploration work as late as the spring season of 2021 if next winter’s weather conditions prove unsuitable.

Initial survey work at the Cretan blocks have produced encouraging results, especially at an offshore area given the name Talos, which has displayed similar geological traits to Egypt’s offshore Zohr gas field.

The results of preliminary research conducted by ELPE in 2015 convinced Total and ExxonMobil to form a partnership with the Greek player.

 

Ratification of Cretan, western offshore licenses just days away

Parliamentary approval of offshore hydrocarbon exploration and production licenses awarded for four fields west and southwest of Crete as well as Greece’s west is now just days away.

The submission of all four licenses to Greek Parliament by this Friday for ratification is seen as a very likely prospect.

The related draft bill carrying the four licenses will essentially represent the recently appointed energy ministry’s first legislative act.

A consortium comprised of Total, ExxonMobil and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) has been awarded two licenses for blocks west and southwest of Crete. Repsol and ELPE were the winning bidders of a tender for a block in the Ionian Sea.

Tenders for these three licenses were held following interest expressed in 2017.

ELPE is the sole participant in a license awarded for Block 10 northwest of the Peloponnese, following a tender launched in 2014.

Scientific surveys have confirmed many geological similarities between the two Cretan offshore blocks and southeast Mediterranean natural gas fields that have produced major discoveries such as Egypt’s Zohr, Cyprus’ Aphrodite and Israel’s Leviathan.

A clearer picture on the prospects of the Greek fields is expected in  eight years, the amount of time it should take to complete related exploration work. A first drilling operation is expected towards the end of this eight-year effort.

The presence of ExxonMobil and Total signals heightened US and French hydrocarbon interest in the wider southeast Mediterranean region.

Industry experts believe ratification of the four Greek licenses will spark further upstream developments in the wider region, including Greece. Preparations are underway for more offshore licenses, especially south of Crete, according to some sources.

More than €3bn invested during crisis, ELPE Upstream chief tells

Hellenic Petroleum ELPE’s Upstream S.A. CEO  Yannis Grigoriou was interviewed for the 3rd episode of BGS Talks Youtube show, discussing, with Regina Chislova, Project Director of Exploration and Production Offshore Congress Hub EPOCH 2019, offshore exploration in Greece; relations between the company and the Greek government; cooperation with ExxonMobil and Total; investments during the crisis and other topics. Excerpts, provided by the BGS Group, follow below. The full interview is available on BGS Talks Youtube channel.

Regina Chislova: In general, let us list the most important projects happening in the region right now.

Yannis Grigoriou: I think what is going on around Cyprus is very interesting, the big majors are there… I think that over the next days we will have some positive announcements. The licensing round of Egypt was a success for the country…And, in Greece, we are signing the lease agreement for two huge offshore blocks around Crete together with Total and Exxon Mobil.

R.C: Could you give us more details on this project, since the majors came to the region.

Y.G: We have geological concepts in our mind. It was almost three years ago, when we had in our hands some multi-client seismic data sold by PGS. We were looking at those and trying to interpret the complex geology of the area…So we worked on that for 2 or 3 months and then we discussed it with Total…We thought: “Let’s form a joint venture to go further on that.” We did that and then we thought again “We need another company to join us” and…we approached Exxon Mobil. In autumn 2016, we created a very strong joint venture for the exploration in the country – Total 40% operator, Exxon Mobil 40%, and ELPE 20%. Following negotiations and other things we are set to sign the lease agreements for these 2 blocks which are really big and very promising.”

“R.C: The country suffered from an enormous crisis. How has the oil and gas industry survived?

Y.G: At ELPE, we survived the crisis because we invested more than €3 billion in building a brand new refinery near Athens and also upgraded our refineries. As the group mostly consists of the downstream oriented group, these investments, first of all, created a number of jobs. We had an opportunity to produce high-quality products according to the strictest EU specifications, which we exported to nearby countries – to Italy, France; we are exporting petrochemicals to Turkey. So, we overcame the Greek crisis by exporting products. We have experienced high profits over the last 3 years…Our profits on an EBITDA basis are almost €800-900 million, which gives us an opportunity for further growth and investments in other business opportunities like upstream or renewables. The export of renewables is also the next pillar for growth for the company.”

“R.C: The principle of your company is “we operate with responsibility towards society and the environment”. Can you elaborate?

Y.G: Health, safety and environment is our first principle for all the company’s activities. We are trying our best, in all our activities, to protect the health of our employees, the health of the local communities, and their safety and the environment. At a recent Gulf of Patras project, for example, where we conducted a 3D seismic survey, we did so in compliance with environmental regulations and special attention to the dolphins.

“R.C: How do you approach your team as a senior-level manager?

Y.G: If I say “as a friend” perhaps there would be misunderstanding in the whole group, but the way we work is like that. We are not a kindergarten. Perhaps, if you ask them, they might tell you that I’m a very strict boss and I push them to the end. But we set goals – sometimes difficult ones – and all of us work together to achieve them.”

Watch the full interview on BGS Talks Youtube channel for insight into why Yannis Grigoriou thinks it is possible to discover fields the size of Zohr in the Greek offshore area; how to cope with failure, and other matters.  

 

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.