Watching the World: Greece seeks energy title

May 23, 2005
With reserves of just 6 million bbl of crude oil and 35 bcf of natural gas, Greece hardly counts as one of the world’s heavyweight energy contenders.

With reserves of just 6 million bbl of crude oil and 35 bcf of natural gas, Greece hardly counts as one of the world’s heavyweight energy contenders.

But Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas says participation in several important international energy projects nonetheless makes his country a real contender as a major East-West energy link.

Sioufas, who had a ringside seat at the latest round of International Energy Agency talks in Paris, and his Italian counterpart, Claudio Scajola, recently signed a protocol for linking their countries with a subsea pipeline to carry natural gas from the Caspian Sea region.

Sioufas also noted a related agreement with Turkey to begin construction of a connecting pipeline to carry Caspian natural gas to Western Europe.

Caspian natural gas...

The 285-km Turkish-Greek pipeline, beginning in Karacabey in the Sea of Marmara and ending in Komotini in Thrace, will initially supply 3.5 billion cu m/year and may later be upgraded to 11 billion cu m/year.

Turkey is expected soon to declare the winner of a tender for its part of the pipeline, and it has pledged to start delivering natural gas by the end of 2006.

Greece’s onward link with Italy will comprise a 600-km pipeline from Komotini to the coast of the Ionian Sea in Epirus and a further 220-km underwater extension to Italy.

Sioufas noted that Greece’s importance as an East-West energy link was further enhanced by the agreement it signed with Russia and Bulgaria on Apr. 12 for construction of the so-called Bourgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.

...And oil, too

That agreement envisions construction of a 285-km pipeline to carry Caspian crude oil from Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Bourgas to Alexandroupolis, on Greece’s Aegean coast.

The oil will be loaded at the Russian port of Novorossiysk and shipped via the Black Sea to Bourgas, where Bulgaria will build a 50 million tonne storage facility. It will then be piped to Alexandroupolis for onward transmission to Western Europe.

The pipeline, which is expected to begin operating in 2008, will allow Russia to bypass Turkey’s congested Bosporus, where oil tankers are often delayed for several days.

Currently, about a third of Russian oil exports are shipped through the busy channel. The new alternative route is expected to make Russian oil deliveries faster, safer, and cheaper.

The 700,000 b/d pipeline will also ease the minds ofTurks worried about potentially excessive tanker traffic passing through their country via the international strait.

The planned capacity for the initial stage of the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline is 15 million tonnes/year, increasing to 24 million tonnes/year in the second year and 35 million tonnes/year in the third year. Ultimately, the pipeline’s throughput could increase to 50 million tonnes/year.

For such a lightweight source of hydrocarbons, figures like that will surely enable Greece to punch well above its weight in the worldwide arena, perhaps enough to claim the East-West energy title it seeks.