Greece bets on gas extraction for Europe and clashes with the Green Deal

This content was published on April 19, 2022 – 09:28

Diego Saez Papachristou

Athens, April 19 (EFE).- The energy crisis and Europe’s efforts to become independent of Russian gas have revived Greece’s ambition to exploit the rich deposits of the eastern Mediterranean, a project that looks like a chimera and clashes with the objectives of the Green Accord.

For years there has been talk of extracting gas and oil and important maritime stocks in this area of ​​the Mediterranean basin.

According to the director of the Hellenic Hydrocarbons Management Company (EDEY), Aristofanis Stefatos, the gas reserves in Greece could amount to 600 billion cubic meters, and the stocks south of the island of Crete and in the sea Ionian could cover 20% of consumption in the European Union (EU).

With these promising figures, it is not surprising that in the midst of the crisis with Russia, the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, decided to reactivate a project that seemed dormant.

Last week he announced that a new impetus would be given to the investigation of natural gas deposits in six different regions of Greece, with the aim of clarifying by the end of next year if there is there is viability.

However, the international companies initially involved in these projects seem to have already drawn their conclusions and are leaving Greece one by one.

Last year the Spanish Repsol finished withdrawing from three projects in the Ionian Sea, and the American ExxonMobil and the French Total, which together still hold the exploration permits for two plots in Crete, seem reluctant to move forward in their seismic investigations.

Speaking to Efe, the director of the office of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO) in Cyprus and expert in energy geopolitics in the eastern Mediterranean, Harry Tzímitras, explains that one of the reasons for this withdrawal has were the bureaucratic delays and the Greek slowness of justice.

Falling gas demand in Europe in recent years and rising prices have also made Eastern Mediterranean gas uncompetitive for the European market, and therefore attractive.

To all this is now added another major obstacle that prevents companies from wanting to invest: the short future of fossil fuels once the EU has decided to abandon them until 2050.

A FROZEN PIPELINE

In 2020, Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed a “historic” agreement for the construction of the East Med gas pipeline, which is almost 2,000 kilometers long and capable of transferring 10,000 million cubic meters per year of gas reserves from Israel and Cyprus to mainland Greece, Italy and the rest of the EU.

While the project initially had US support, earlier this year Washington withdrew its support on the grounds that it had decided to focus on renewable energy.

From its inception, doubts have hovered over the viability of this gas pipeline, since the seabed between Cyprus and Crete where it must pass reaches a depth of up to 3 kilometers, which could trigger the construction cost to 10,000 million dollars. euros, according to well-informed geologists and experts. in energy projects.

However, according to Tzímikas, the infeasibility of this gas pipeline, as well as others that are currently being studied in the eastern Mediterranean, is not only related to its cost, but also to political tensions in the region and energy objectives. passage.

Any gas pipeline requires a construction period of at least five years and “it would then have to operate for 20 years without interruption to be profitable and, above all, to make commercial sense”, underlines the expert.

Taking into account that the EU has set itself the goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050, Tzímikas sees it as “very difficult” for a state to commit to signing such long-term contracts with potential investors.

“The EU should change its agreements on climate change and that will not happen and should not happen,” he says.

THE FUTURE IS ELECTRICITY

Contrary to the lethargy of gas projects, two important and much less expensive electrical interconnection works have already been put on track: one between Greece and Egypt (EuroAfrica Interconnector), and another between Greece, Cyprus and Israel. (EuroAsia Interconnector).

The two projects, which could start in 2026, would transfer a total of 4 GW of “clean” and “cheap” energy to the European Union from Israel and Egypt, countries that have committed to renewable energy.

According to Tzimikas, the European Union should bet on these projects to achieve the objective of the Green Deal.

“The future is electricity and renewable energies” because there are no disputes between states as to their possession, as is the case with fossil fuels, he specifies. EFE

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