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Politics

The Hunt for Gas: Greece Wants to End Reliance on Russian Supplies

ATHENS – Pushed into a corner by dependency on Russian gas while denouncing the invasion of Ukraine, Greece will try to find its own reserves of energy by accelerating exploration and to start drill tests by the end of 2023.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that is the  goal because Greece, like the European Union, gets up to 40 percent of its energy from Russia and has to keep buying it, the fuels exempted from other bloc sanctions.

The Russian invasion has also driven up prices, taking a big bite out of state coffers to purchase gas and to subsidize the soaring cost for consumers, also affecting skyrocketing electric bills for them.

The EU said it wants to reduce its purchases of Russian gas by 66 percent this year and end it totally by 2027, after President Vladimir Putin used it as a weapon against further sanctions.

Greece has been forced to also go back to using coal it hoped to phase out and the plans are to find enough gas as a transition to renewable energies, including and solar, to get away from Russian products.

But low crude prices in previous years, a shift to green energy, and a lack of political will have stalled exploration plans, noted Reuters in a report on the sudden shift.

Mitsotakis said Greece also hopes to become a gas producer and a hub for the storage and transfer of gas to the rest of Europe but Turkey has disputed the waters between them and also plans to drill for oil and gas.

“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,” Mitsotakis said.

He said that the change in strategy, including using more coal, won’t affect plans to cut carbon emission in 2030 to meet EU climate change targets, without explaining why burning the polluting product wouldn’t hurt.

“It is simply an alternative path towards the same target,” he said, adding that there are some signs already that there may be enough gas reserves in Greek territory to make the venture worthwhile.

Energean, the only oil producer in Greece so far, will carry out a test drilling at an onshore block in the west of the country, the first such drilling in the country in 22 years, said CEO Mathios Rigas, the news agency reported.

Greece wants to end a first round of seismic surveys to identify any gas fields it could tap in one onshore and five offshore areas in western Greece and off the island of Crete by March 2023, said the hydrocarbons commission.

Hellenic Petroleum owns exploration licences for five of the six prospective blocks, including two blocks west and southwest of Crete jointly with TotalEnergies and Exxon Mobil, the report added.

The government will notify Energean and other energy companies that hold exploration licences in those areas of its intention to speed procedures, said Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas.

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