The B7 Directorate for International Energy Issues operates at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs due to the growing interest for energy issues in the 21st century globally, and considering that oil and natural gas pipeline routes are a priority of our country’s foreign policy. The Directorate monitors international energy issues, and, in particular, energy developments in the sectors of oil and natural gas pipelines, electric power networks and, secondarily, developments in the EU space. At the same time, it assists in the work of the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate change.
There is particular emphasis on hydrocarbon exploration in Greece, as the country endeavors to develop its domestic resources in an effort to enhance its own energy security and that of the wider region. In the oil sector, the Directorate is monitoring the course of the two International Rounds of Concessions: The first concerned the land areas in Western Greece (Arta-Preveza, Aitoloakarnania, Northwest Peloponnese) and the second one, the 20 offshore fields in the regions of the Ionian Sea and south of Crete.
In the natural gas sector, Greece wants to emerge as a regional transit hub (natural gas pipelines, LNG terminals). The Southern Corridor, which is a major component of the EU’s energy policy, is of primary importance. This new corridor will be added to the various sources from which the EU obtains its natural gas, thus contributing to strengthening the security and flexibility of its energy supply. The Southern Corridor includes the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), carrying natural gas from the Caspian (Shah Deniz gas field) to the European market (Southern Italy) via Georgia, Turkey, Greece and Albania. The final investment decision on the implementation of the TAP was taken in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 17 December 2013.
The TAP – 870 km. long, in total, of which 550 km. will be on Greek territory, has a projected capacity of 10 BCM annually, with the potential for upgrade to 20 BCM, depending on future supply and demand conditions. The TAP strengthens Greece’s energy security with the provision for supplies of 1 BCM annually, while it will also create new jobs via the involvement of Greek engineering and construction firms. Finally, the TAP has been recognized as a Project of Common Interest (PCI) by the European Union, while the European Energy Community has characterized the pipeline as a “project of interest for the Energy Community”.
At the same time, Greece is monitoring the developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, following the discovery – from 2009 to 2011 – of natural gas reserves in the offshore region between Cyprus and Israel (Levantine Basin). The natural gas reserves proven to date in the Israeli EEZ and Field 12 in the Cypriot EEZ alter the geopolitical state of affairs in the region and add to the alternative solutions for supplying energy to Europe, as a “Third Corridor” for natural gas, after the Russian and Caspian networks. Our country is promoting the idea of constructing the EASTMED pipeline, which would carry quantities of natural gas from the Levantine Basin to Western Europe (Southern Italy), via Crete and mainland Greece, and the relevant feasibility study is already being carried out.
Following the rejection of Nabucco West, in July 2013, the European Commission began promoting plans for its replacement through a network of interconnector pipelines called the Vertical Corridor for natural gas. The corridor in question will utilize the national natural gas networks of Bulgaria and Romania, and will link the markets of Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, and potentially those of other countries of Southeast Europe.
The gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) pipeline is part of the Vertical Corridor. The IGB is slated for completion within 2017 and has been designed with reverse-flow capability. As of 2014, the existing Greece-Bulgaria Koula-Strymonohori pipeline – through which Greece is supplied with Russian natural gas via the Ukrainian, Romanian and Bulgarian networks – already has reverse-flow capability.
The overall planning for the construction of natural gas pipelines that will render Greece a transit hub is supplemented by the Revithoussa liquefied natural gas (LNG) regasification terminal, which has operated without interruption since early 2000, with natural gas imported mainly from Algeria, based on a long-term contract. This terminal has two LNG storage tanks with a capacity of 130,000 cubic meters. In 2013, a contract was signed for the construction of a third tank with a capacity of 95,000 cubic meters, with a parallel increase of 40% in gasification rate, and upgrading of the Agia Triada Megaron metering station, where the gas enters the national network. Completion of the overall project is projected for March 2016.
In tandem, three feasibility studies have been submitted to and approved by the competent EU organs: a) The construction of floating LNG regasification terminals in Kavala and Alexandroupoli, and b) the Independent Natural Gas System of Alexandroupoli.
Finally, the potential for converting the oil field of Kavala into a natural gas storage facility is being examined, as this would strengthen the country’s energy security even further, particularly in times of crisis.
With regard to electricity, the Foreign Ministry is assisting the competent Ministries by monitoring developments in European energy policy and briefing involved Greek agencies on the issue.
In the developing sector of renewable energy sources (RES), the Foreign Ministry consults with the involved agencies and monitors new directions and trends in this market on a European and international level.
Through its Diplomatic Missions abroad, the Foreign Ministry monitors all international energy developments, international agreements, and trends in the sector, as all of these, to a great extent, determine geopolitical developments. Similarly, the Foreign Ministry monitors issues promoted in international and regional energy organizations, where decisions are taken on the global and European energy future.