The energy crisis is reviving interest in natural gas quantities in the Southeastern Mediterranean, along with the unexplored reserves south of Crete and in the Ionian Sea that have grabbed the attention of US giant ExxonMobil and its French peer Total.
The increase in global gas rates by 250% since the start of the year has highlighted both the financial and the geopolitical significance of those reserves, as Europe is paying dearly for the lesson of what it costs to be excessively dependent on one supplier.
At last week’s European Council, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stressed the geopolitical aspects of the energy crisis and the role that the Eastern Mediterranean can play as an alternative source for the European Union’s energy security. The region’s reserves are estimated by the US Geological Service at between 122 trillion and 277 cubic feet, a significant part of which has been confirmed in the exclusive economic zones of Israel, Egypt and Cyprus.
Besides natural gas, the region can also secure the EU some cheap green energy from the Sahara desert, via the underwater power connection of Egypt with Cyprus and Greece, a deal signed in Athens last week. Of course the creation of an energy corridor requires stability in the region, and strengthens Greek arguments against Turkey.
Mitsotakis also highlighted the dimension of stability at Kathimerini’s 1st Athens ESG summit last week. The Eastern Mediterranean is not only vital for Europe because it should stand by two member-states whose sovereign rights are violated by Turkey, “but also because this region should constitute a new source of natural gas for the EU,” he said.
Greece has yet to explore the capacity of its possible gas reserves, estimated in the Ionian Sea and off Crete around 70 trillion and 90 trillion cubic feet respectively.
The new situation has brought back to the table the utilization of those reserves and bolstered interest by Total and ExxonMobil in blocks to the south and west of Crete.