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Greece Sets 2023 as Make or Break Year for Natural Gas Exploration

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PM Mitsotakis said that by 2023, Greece will know if there are reserves that are economically viable to extract. Credit: AMNA

Greece said on Tuesday that by 2023, it will be known whether it has natural gas reserves that are economically viable to extract, as the country tries to cut its reliance on Russian energy.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who met the country’s hydrocarbons commission and energy industry executives said that Greece will speed up gas exploration projects in concert with private investors.

“Accelerating the exploitation of the country’s national energy resources will allow us, if we are lucky and we have exploitable natural gas fields, to boost our energy independence, our energy security,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

“We have indications that make us cautiously optimistic. We have to know with certainty whether there are reserves that are economically viable to extract. We will know…by the end of 2023,” he added.

Six areas where gas reserves make Greece cautiously optimistic

He explained that this concerns six areas that are located northwest of the island of Corfu, in the Ionian Sea, in the Gulf of Kyparissia, and in the sea west and southwest of Crete, as well as in the regional unit of Ioannina.

For the areas near Crete, the consortium conducting the exploration is comprised of the companies Total, ExxonMobil, and Hellenic Petroleum while an Energean-Hellenic Petroleum consortium is operating near Corfu, Hellenic Petroleum (HELPE) in the Gulf of Kyparissia and Energean in Ioannina.

The other land areas in Western Greece where concessions for hydrocarbon exploration were given (Etoloakarnania, Arta, Preveza and northwest Peloponnese) were returned to the Greek state while an offshore area in western Patras Gulf, where surveys showed the existence of oil and not natural gas, will probably also be returned to the Greek state.

The search of national gas reserves, he said, will not undermine the country’s policy to ramp up renewables and cut carbon emissions by 55 percent by 2030 in line with the EU’s climate change targets.

The premier said that in the new European environment, reducing reliance on Russian natural gas and the search for fossil fuel solutions that will guarantee sufficiency and better prices are the only road for Greece.

“Greece has a key role to play in the new energy landscape,” Mitsotakis said, adding that “we are here to announce another important choice, that of the producer country.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to cut off Russian gas to Europe if “unfriendly countries” don’t pay in rubles.

“Unfriendly countries” are those which have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, particularly the U.S., U.K., and members of the European Union, including Greece.

Greece imports more than 30 percent of natural gas from Russia

Greece is working to reduce its dependency on Russian energy imports. In early March,  Mitsotakis stated to Parliament: ” We cannot rule out attempts by Russia to blackmail. We all realize this… will disrupt global supplies and probably trigger a further rise in (energy) prices.”

As Greece imported 33 percent of its gas supplies from Russia in January, Athens called on the EU to support member-states and businesses against a further rise in energy costs.

Mitsotakis assured Parliament, saying that his government is prepared for a “worst-case scenario where gas supplies from Russia are halted, as its liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facility at Revythousa near Athens has been recently replenished.”

“We are strengthening the diversification of our resources. In January, Greece covered 47 percent of domestic demand with LNG from Revythousa and 20 percent through the TAP pipeline,” Mitsotakis revealed.

On March 25, US President Joe Biden and EU President Ursula von der Leyen announced a major deal on liquified natural gas in an attempt to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian energy.

The agreement will see the US provide the EU with at least 15 billion additional cubic meters of fuel–known as LNG–by the end of the year.

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