BUSINESS

Greece gets strong interest in oil, gas blocks, minister says

By Paul Tugwell & Nikos Chrysoloras

Investor interest in bidding for permits to explore for oil and natural gas off Greece is stronger than expected, Energy Minister Yiannis Maniatis said.

“More than 10 international petroleum companies have expressed interest in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete, which is better than we expected,” Maniatis said in an interview in Athens. “We now know for sure that there are hydrocarbons in Greece and that exploring for them makes economic sense.”

Greece wants to exploit potential reserves as part of efforts to boost growth amid a six-year recession that’s left than one in four jobseekers unemployed. An initial evaluation of seismic survey data in the Ionian and south of Crete shows structures similar to oil-bearing areas in southeastern Italy and Albania, the Energy Ministry said Jan. 29.

Greece will also invite bids for rights to explore three land blocks in western Greece after the country accepted an application from Enel SpA to search for hydrocarbons in the same areas, Maniatis said. The licensing rounds for both the onshore and offshore blocks will be announced officially in London July 1 and 2, he said.

The country also seeks to become a new transit route for natural gas in the region, a role that could help loosen Russia’s grip on Europe’s energy supplies, he said. “Advanced talks” are under way with Bulgaria and Romania for the construction of a floating LNG gasification and storage plant in northern Greece and the completion of an interconnector pipeline, Maniatis said in the interview June 20.

TAP link

The pipeline, known as IGB, could link to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, carrying Azeri gas to European markets, and would be the start of a vertical corridor linking the Greek gas network with the Baltic as well as Romania, Bulgaria, and Austria.

In addition to hydrocarbons, Greece has total mineral reserves valued at about 30 billion euros ($40.8 billion), Maniatis said. “A study begun in 2011 on all possible, proven and exploitable reserves will be completed in the next few days and in the coming months we’ll issue tenders for exploitation,” he said.

Greece is the world’s second-largest producer of perlite, used in construction, accounting for 32 percent of output, and the third global producer of bentonite, used in fluids to lubricate cutting tools and as cat litter. The country is Europe’s largest producer of nickel with 49 percent of output, fourth-largest producer of magnesite and marble and is among the world’s top 10 countries for bauxite reserves. [Bloomberg]

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