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Greece

Capital Athens
Time Zone EET (GMT+2)
Country Code 30
Mobile Codes 690,693,694,695,697,698,699
ccTLD .gr
Currency Euro
Land Area 131,990 sq km
Population 11.3 million
Language Greek
Major Religion Orthodox Christianity

In Greece, Renewed Interest in Exploratory Oil Research in 2012 and Beyond

By Ioannis Michaletos

Balkanalysis.com Editor’s Note: Greece’s financial and political weakness brings with it the inevitable redistribution of prime national assets, wealth and interests to multinational corporations influenced by, and influencing, foreign governments. The present report discusses the details of some of the relevant and more high-profile possible projects in years ahead, in the energy sector.

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While there is ongoing uncertainty over Greece’s finances and political future, the country’s Ministry of Energy has also revealed that there is growing international interest in several impending oil research exploration initiatives in Greece.

In fact, some 11 companies have expressed an interest, from countries such as the US, Canada, Norway, France, Russia, Italy, UK, Denmark, Israel and India, according to the most recent information available.

However, even though further explorations are in sight, all will eventually depend on the wider economic-political climate in Greece during 2012 and beyond. The specific companies that will be awarded the concessions for drilling will, more or less, get the majority of the revenues and will have better tax regimes than other industrial companies in Greece. This will likely be used as a bonus for their potential investment.

In a working forum on hydrocarbon opportunities held recently in Athens, more data was made available regarding the opportunities at hand for prospective investors. First of all, the Open Door invitation will officially commence on 1 January 2012, and the Greek government will notify all interested parties publicly about the progress of the research now being undertaken.

In October, the now deceased Papandreou government “gave the go-ahead for oil exploration in an area in the Gulf of Patras, a second area west of Ioannina, in Epirus prefecture, and in the region of Katakolo in Ileia prefecture, with an estimated potential of 250-300 million barrels over a period of 15-20 years,” reported Athensnews.gr at the time.

The alternate minister of energy, Ioannis Maniatis, recently stated that “the first research will be made in potential fields in the western part of the country and in the regions of [the] Patraikos Gulf, Ioannina area and Cape Katakolo, where it is estimated that up to 300 million barrels of oil can be commercially retrieved.”

Maniatis, speaking before parliament on 16 November, also confirmed that the proposed oil explorations will also concentrate south of Crete where a potentially significant undersea oil reserve exists, geologists believe. More specifically, the site in question lies south of Crete’s small satellite island of Gavdos- Europe’s southernmost point.

According to the Athensnews.gr report, Maniatis had pledged that “everything will be conducted with full transparency”- a value that Greeks have historically seen as deficient in their governing structures.

In a recent report on the subject, the Athens-based IENE Energy Institute relayed the main features of these regions and their hydrocarbon potential.

The Patraikos Gulf, according to relative recent seismic research, has the potential for some 200 million barrels in offshore locations of oil and at a medium depth, IENE reported. In the Ioanina area close to the Greek-Albanian border in the northwestern province of Epiros, the institute’s report also estimated that a high-cost seismic and research drilling process will be required and at a depth of more than 4,000 meters beneath the earth’s surface.

Here there are indications of between 50-90 million barrels, and the institute speculates that due to the proximity with Albania, international investors may be interested in investing in both countries, since already in Albania similar research drilling has taken place.

In addition, the Cape Katakolo field (a subject of exploratory research since 1982) has revealed an oil reserve of around 5 million barrels, at a depth of 2,300 meters. The sea depth in that area is 250 meters.

According to the estimations based on the current price of oil on the world market, the Greek state would be able to retain from $10-15 bn excluding the profits of the participating companies and the cost of exploration, research and other investments.

The method of exploration which is going to be used is that of the non-exclusive seismic survey. For the time being, a special governmental committee has been organized that will act as the liaison of the Greek ministry of energy with prospective investors. It will also gather and make available the results of all similar hydrocarbon exploration research made in the country over the past 30 years.

Lastly, the Greek minister of education, Anna Diamantopoulou, in a recent statement revealed that “Greece has a substantial scientific dynamic of geologists, oil experts and energy technicians, and the Greek state is pledging 20 million euros for geological research per year, by the education ministry alone.”

Therefore, she added, “the human resources that can assist in hydrocarbon exploration investments and potential production can be found locally, thus filling the gap for potential investors seeking to man their future operations in Greece.”

Much of the future of Greek energy exploration depends, not only on the country’s financial health and perceptions of its safety as an investment destination, but also on larger international ‘pipeline politics’ and energy trends.

For example, on 12 December the Greek-Russian Energy Committee met, according to Bloomberg, to discuss Bulgaria’s plan for “dissolving the trilateral agreement for a proposed 285-kilometer (177-mile) pipeline from the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas to the Greek port of Alexandroupolis on the Aegean.” Bulgaria has said it will withdraw (unilaterally, if necessary) in 12 months due to the chronic unpopularity of the pipeline among Bulgarians in Black Sea towns dependent on tourism, who fear that a pipeline would harm their livelihoods.

Maniatis, who is now the Deputy Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister in the new Papademos government, recently met with the Russian Ambassador to Greece, Vladimir I Chkhikvishvili, and both reaffirmed their support for the ill-fated pipeline.

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