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Economy

Greece Seen Sitting on Gold Mine of Recoverable Gas Reserves

ATHENS – Greece’s plans to get off reliance on Russian gas, from which it gets about 40 percent of its supplies, could get a big boost from the potential discovery of more than 600 billion cubic meters in western Greece and off the island of Crete.

“Volume wise, our estimates right now are that 85 percent of tentative total reserves are actually natural gas,” the CEO of Hellenic Hydrocarbon Resources Management Aristofanis Stefatos told Reuters in an interview.

“Preliminary evaluations of targets suggest more than 600 bcm (billion cubic meters) of tentative recoverables,” he said, the amount 100 times more than current usage annually.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought European Union sanctions the bloc’s reliance on Russia for energy saw the commodity exempted and the member states still allowed to buy it, fueling President Vladimir Putin’s war machine.

Collecting seismic data through survey vessels is a key step in gas exploration to identify potential reserves. Greece aims to conclude a first round of all seismic research by March 2023 and the New Democracy government said it would ask foreign companies licensed for the enery hunt to accelerate it.

But consortium of France’s TotalEnergies, America’s Exxon Mobil and Hellenic Petroleum, licensed to explore at two blocks off Crete, haven’t concluded the process yet, the report also noted.

Environmental groups have also appealed an assessment by authorities on the environmental impact of gas exploration off Crete claiming it didn’t include the impact of seismic surveys on sea mammals and the potential risk outweighed benefits. A court ruling is pending, the news agency said.

Stefatos said the arguments were based mainly on legal technicalities and the commission was “quite optimistic” of winning the case. Greece’s priority is to look for gas and not for oil, he said: “This eliminates the possibility of an oil spill and minimizes any environmental risks”.

Greece had looked at gas as a transition fuel as it eyed shifting more toward renewables such as wind and solar power but the government has been forced to go back to coal to get off Russian gas, and hasn’t aggressively looked for oil.

“What has changed is the sense of urgency to push ahead with the development of Greece’s upstream sector,” Stefatos said.

“Now that prices and market demand have returned to high levels … we have the market conditions for an acceleration of all these efforts,” he said, hoping this government would help make the turn now.

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