ECONOMY

Athens set to maximize East Med gas advantages

Greece is trying to place itself in the best possible position to transport natural gas recently discovered in Cyprus?s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and in Israel to the Greek mainland, and thus Europe, so that it can make the most of any future developments in the Eastern Mediterranean.

?Technical discussions are being held and a preliminary study has also been carried out by the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA), which is exploring the possibility of building a natural gas pipeline from Cyprus to Crete and from there to the Peloponnese,? Greece?s Energy Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou told Kathimerini?s Cyprus edition on Sunday. Papaconstantinou had traveled to Nicosia last week, where he held meetings with Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Praxoula Antoniadou, as well as with representatives of the Cypriot government?s newly established advisory committee for natural gas, a visit that came after an earlier trip to Israel, where he also met with representatives of the energy sector.

Other than its possible pipeline plans, Greece can also process liquefied natural gas at its terminal on the island of Revythousa, off the coast of western Attica, while construction work is continuing on the Greek section of the ITGI (Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy), which will carry natural gas to Central Europe via Italy and the countries of Eastern Europe through the IGB (Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria).

?Technically, the pipeline solution appears perfectly feasible; the financial viability of the endevor, however, remains to be examined,? Papaconstantinou stressed. ?We need a technical financial study to confirm whether a pipeline is the best solution — need to look at the alternative of liquefaction.?

The geopolitical significance of such a pipeline is obvious as it would give Europe a new source of natural gas supply from friendly countries (Greece, Cyprus, Israel) and reduce its dependence on Russia and Azerbaijan.

DEPA sources told Kathimerini that a pipeline carrying natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Central and Western Europe is perfectly feasible on a technical level and financially viable. In fact, DEPA is currently collaborating on a preliminary study confirming these facts with a foreign consultant.

However a lot still rests on what decisions Israel will take concerning its involvement in developments.

?Israel has not made any decisions yet,? Papaconstantinou said. ?It is studying all the parameters and over the next three months will receive a study outlining all of the alternatives. It is open, however. It has moved away from its initial introversion, where it wanted to develop the natural gas fields to cover its domestic needs. After discovering the size of the deposits, it is now obviously looking at an outlet to Europe. So, by entering this discussion, the alternatives are also now on the table, of which there are essentially two: the construction of a pipeline or liquefaction.?

Meanwhile, an interest in any developments has also been expressed by another Greek company, Energean, which holds the concession rights to develop the Prinos oil field off the coast of Thasos in the northern Aegean.

At a recent energy council held in Nicosia, Energean CEO Mathios Rigas outlined the advantages of storing natural gas in the underwater oil field south of Kavala, seeing the northern Greek city as a point of entry for Eastern Mediterranean gas. The company is also exploring the possibility of joining a consortium in order to vie for a concession in one of the other 11 natural gas fields in the Cypriot EEZ.