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Charles Ellinas writes for the 5th Cretan Energy Conference – International Conference & Exhibition “Gas developments in the East Med”

The international oil companies (IOCs), are still reeling under the impact of low oil and gas prices and massive losses and asset write-offs during 2020. ExxonMobil, under increasing pressure, is considering further spending cuts and even a shake-up of its board.The path to full recovery will be slow and at the end of it, in 2-3 years, the IOCs will be different, placing more emphasis on clean energy and renewables.In the meanwhile, around the East Med, Egypt is forging ahead. It has signed a new exploration agreement with Shell for an offshore block in the Red Sea. This is in addition to the 22 agreements signed during 2020 that included major IOCs such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, Eni and Total. Moreover, EGPC and EGAS are planning to offer onshore and offshore exploration blocks for bidding in February.

This continuing activity led to the discovery of 47 oil and 15 natural gas fields in 2020, 13% more than in 2019, despite Covid-19.Tareq El-Molla, Egypt’s petroleum minister, signaled earlier this month Egypt’s intention to expand its petrochemicals sector to take advantage of the country’s expanding hydrocarbon resources. Egypt has updated its petrochemical national plan until 2023 to meet the increasing prospects in this industry.

LNG exports

Egypt has also benefited from the recent increase in LNG prices, resuming exports from its liquefaction plant at Idku, with most exports going to China, India and Turkey. The country is also ready to resume exports from its second liquefaction plant at Damietta starting end February. This has been lying idle since 2012 due to disputes that have now been resolved. LNG exports will mainly utilize surplus gas from the Zohr gasfield and possibly imports from Israel, should prices allow it.

In fact, the resumption of LNG exports from Idku relieved some of the pressure on Egypt’s gas market, which is in oversupply partly due to impact of the pandemic, but also due to falling gas demand in Egypt’s power sector and growth in renewable energy.El-Molla, said that Egypt is planning a revival of its LNG exports. But this depends greatly on what happens to global markets and prices.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said that the Asian LNG demand and price spike in January was a short-term phenomenon and it is not an indicator that global demand will rebound in 2021. The IEA expects only a small recovery in global gas demand this year, after the decline in 2020, partly due to the pandemic. But given ongoing concerns over the pandemic, the rate of gas demand growth will remain uncertain. The IEA said the longer-term future of LNG markets remains challenging.

Gas from Israel

Chevron – having acquired Noble Energy and its interests in the region last year – with Delek and their partners in Israel’s Leviathan and Tamar gasfields, signed an agreement to invest $235million in a new subsea pipeline, expanding existing facilities. According to an announcement by Delek, the pipeline will connect facilities at Israeli city Ashod to the EMG pipeline at Ashkelon, enabling Chevron and its partners to increase gas exports to Egypt to as much as 7billion cubic meters annually (bcm/yr).The partners signed agreements last year to export as much as 85bcm/yr gas to Egypt over a 15 year period. Gas supplies from Israel to Egypt started in January last year.It is not clear at this stage if new agreements will be reached to fully utilize the increased export capacity from Israel to Egypt, but given Egypt’s gas oversupply this may not be likely.These developments, though, show the vulnerability of Cyprus and the weakness of relying on trilateral alliances with Egypt and Israel for its gas exports.

EastMed gas pipeline

This is being kept alive by regional politicians. Only this week, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia confirmed their support for the EastMed gas pipeline.

While such developments are good politically, bringing like-minded countries around the East Med closer together, they are not sufficient to advance the project. This requires private investment and buyers of the gas in Europe. None of these is forthcoming, because the project is not commercially viable. By the time the gas arrives in Europe it will be too expensive to compete with existing, much cheaper, supplies.

Europe is also moving away from gas and from new gas pipeline projects. Catharina Sikow Magny, Director DG Energy European Commission (EC), covered this at the European Gas Virtual conference on 28 January. Answering the question how much natural gas will the EU need in the future, she said ZERO. She was emphatic that with the EU committed to net zero emissions by 2050, by then there will be zero unabated gas consumed in Europe. In addition, with the EU having increased the emissions reduction target from 40% to 55% by 2030, the use of gas in Europe will be decreasing in order to meet the 2030 and 2050 climate targets. She said that ongoing natural gas projects are expected to be completed by 2022 – with no more needed after that.

With exports to global markets becoming increasingly difficult, there are other regional options to make use of the gas discovered so far around the East Med, including power generation in support of intermittent renewables and petrochemicals, as Egypt is doing. The newly constituted East Med Gas Forum (EMGF) should place these at the heart of its agenda.

What about Cyprus?

Hydrocarbon exploration activities around Cyprus are at a standstill, partly due to the continuing impact of Covid-19, but also due to the dire state of the IOCs and the challenges being faced by the natural gas industry in general.

This lack of activity in resuming offshore exploration may be a blessing, taking the heat off hydrocarbons, while priorities shift to discussions to resolve the Cyprus problem and the Greece-Turkey maritime disputes.

Charles Ellinas writes for the 5th Cretan Energy Conference – International Conference & Exhibition

Dr Charles Ellinas, @CharlesEllinas

Senior Fellow

Global Energy Center

Atlantic Council


The Maltese Ministry for Energy and Water Management supports and participates to the 5th Cretan Energy Conference – International Conference & Exhibition


The Ministry for Energy and Water Management in Malta looks forward to the upcoming 5th Cretan Energy Conference 2020 as a platform that will give us the opportunity to share information and insights in the energy sector; particularly at this time, where energy and climate issues are at the forefront of political and societal debate both at an EU and at a global level.

In Malta, the government’s main focus is to provide citizens and businesses with affordable sustainable and secure forms of energy which in itself is a reflection of the overarching policy fundamentals of the EU Energy Union. Over recent years, Malta has seen an overhaul in its energy sector, moving away from the use of heavy fuel oil for electricity generation towards the use of LNG in gas-fired power plants. Maintaining a diversified energy mix; reducing carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions through improved efficiency in generation capacity; strengt

hening the security of supply of the country wh

ilst ensuring the availability of appropriate back up capacity; achieving a degree of interconnection for electricity supply and overhauling the generation capacity of the country with a view to achieving higher efficiency gains remain crucial for the island.

In line with the obligations of the Governance Regulation, Malta developed its first National Energy and Climate plan in 2019, which serves as a strategic planning framework and policy document that will guide Malta’s contribution to achieving the Energy Union’s 2030 objectives and targets, whilst identifying those measures necessary for their achievement during the period until 2030, with an outlook until 2040. The plan provides a clear path for Malta to attain the overarching objectives of a sustainable, affordable and secure energy system which needs to follow a decarbonisation trajectory, whilst recognising the inherent challenges and opportunities brought about by national specificities such as spatial constraints, high population density, and a mild Mediterranean climate. This calls for specific solutions, which may also depend on further technological and cost developments.

Energy efficiency, which is one of the main drivers of our energy policy is being complemented by various government incentives. Malta recognises the importance of investing in and stimulating renewable energy sources and continuing to support the exploitation of viable indigenous sources.  Government increased its efforts to support the deployment of renewable energy, especially photovoltaics, solar water heaters and heat pump water heaters, which are particularly w


ell suited to Malta’s climate. The Government extended its current policy framework in the area of Renewables for the period until 2030, whilst providing new initiatives tailored to local specificities and acknowledging the technical, geographical and spatial barriers limiting renewable energy potential.  Malta is also assessing innovative and cost-effective solutions to increase energy system flexibility, such as the deployment of energy storage solutions, which would be necessary to compensate for the increased deployment of renewables.

Whist it is acknowledged that Mediterranean countries already cooperate in various sectors,  there is undoubtedly room for closer ties to exploit opportunities for growth based on sustainable development.  In this regard, Malta already actively participates in initiatives taken under the aegis of the Union for the Mediterranean, and is convinced that by sharing resources, including both physical, technology and knowledge, it is possible to achieve better and quicker results.  This would also make it possible to address specific challenges being faced by individual countries such as rapid


increase in energy demand,  air quality issues and network constraints.

We are all witness to the results obtained through effective collaboration on gas exploration and transmission in the East Med.  Similar collaboration hubs can surely produce similar results.  It is therefore important that existing fora are strengthened to act as the necessary platform for future collaboration.



General Secretary at the Ministry of Environment & Energy Mrs. Alexandra Sdoukou writes about 5th Cretan Energy Conference.


Armed with the ambition to put Greece at the forefront of the fight for climate
change, allied with legislation that paves the way for achieving the goal of carbon
neutrality, the European Union is promoting a strategy for sustainable
development as described in the “Green Deal” text.

This ambition is reinforced almost by all unanimously of the E.U Member States,
which in turn allows the EU. to pursue the success of all its binding goals. Member
States should contribute to their achievement through the implementation of National
Energy and Climate Plans. Greece is at the forefront and is actively involved in this
process, as it has already submitted both its own National Plan for Energy and
Climate and the Long-Term Strategy for the year 2050.



NECP is now the main pillar of strategy for our country. Its main goals are summed
up in the penetration of Renewable Energy Sources(RES) by 35%, energy savings by
38%, the additional reduction of GHG emissions of 10 Mton (megatons) CO2 and the
increase in the classification of electric vehicles by up to 30% by 2030.

At the same time, achieving these goals opens new perspectives for the country’s
economy, as it presupposes the inflow of large investments.
In this light, we expect an increase in investment flows to reach up to the level of € 44
billion, of which about 9 billion will be allocated for electricity generation from
Renewable Energy Sources, another 5.5 billion will be required for the development
of electricity network infrastructure, while another € 11 billion will be allocated for
energy efficiency measures. For RES, we estimate that € 12.6 billion will emerge in
the form of an increase in domestic value-added, another 4.8 billion. as an increase in
the income of the workers, while, finally, for the energy upgrade of the buildings, 8.1
billion emerge. and 3.4 billion respectively.

At this point, special mention should be made of the government’s strategy to stop
relying on lignite as a form of fuel, which is expected to be completed by 2028,
which is one of the most strategically important moves of our country towards
achieving a cleaner and more “green” economy until 2030.The goal of no longer
using brown coal will require a bold shift in the use of natural
gas, which has been described internationally as the “fuel-bridge” to the energy transition
and the zero-carbon economy.

However, at this point, it should be noted that the European Regulation Plan for the
programming period 2021-2027, largely excludes the eligibility of natural gas
infrastructure projects, in terms of funding from the current NSRF 2021-2027, which
is a challenge and a justified reflection. Greece has been quick to submit specific proposals
to the Brussels authorities, with the ultimate goal of revising this decision, taking into
account – among other things -that new infrastructure is maturing at this stage,
such as FSRU Alexandroupolis or theUGS of Kavala contributes to the diversification
of energy sources and the strengthening of Europe’s supply security.

Greece is also particularly outspoken on cross-border hydrocarbon transport issues,
which boost energy security.
The TAP pipeline, which will soon be completed, but also new ambitious projects,
such as the East Med Pipeline whose intergovernmental agreement was recently
submitted for ratification by Parliament, gave a new impetus to Greece’s role in the
SE Mediterranean.
The cooperation with all the states of the region is a constant pursuit of the
government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis and in particular of the Ministry of Environment
and Energy. I am very happy to be involved in this project, a promising organisation
such as the East Med Gas Forum based in Egypt, which can become a “game-
changer” of the SE area of the Mediterranean.

In closing, I believe that the 5th Cretan Energy Conference will be an opportunity
for further dialogue and exchange of views on the energy events in our region, in
which Greece is claiming an active and decisive role.

Alexandra Sdoukou is General Secretary of Energy & Mineral Resources at the
Ministry of Environment and Energy.

The article was written as part of the 5th Cretan Energy Conference /
International Conference & Exhibition.

Η Γ.Γ. του ΥΠΕΝ Α. Σδούκου γράφει ενόψει του 5ου Παγκρήτιου Ενεργειακού Συνεδρίου.

Με όπλο τη φιλοδοξία της να τεθεί στην εμπροσθοφυλακή της μάχης για την κλιματική αλλαγή, και με σύμμαχο τη νομοθεσία που ανοίγει το δρόμο για την επίτευξη του στόχου της ουδετερότητας του άνθρακα, η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση προωθεί τη στρατηγικής για τη βιώσιμη ανάπτυξη όπως αυτή περιγράφεται στο κείμενο της «Πράσινης Συμφωνίας». Η φιλοδοξία αυτή ενδυναμώνεται από τη σχεδόν ομόφωνη στάση των κρατών-μελών, κάτι που επιτρέπει στην Ε.Ε. να επιδιώξει την ευόδωση όλων των δεσμευτικών στόχων της. Τα κράτη-μέλη έχουν την υποχρέωση να συμβάλλουν για την επίτευξή τους μέσω της εφαρμογής Εθνικών Σχεδίων για την Ενέργεια και το Κλίμα (ΕΣΕΚ). Η Ελλάδα βρίσκεται στην πρώτη γραμμή και συμμετέχει δυναμικά σε αυτή τη διαδικασία, καθώς έχει ήδη υποβάλλει τόσο το δικό της ΕΣΕΚ, όσο και τη Μακροχρόνια Στρατηγική για το έτος 2050.

Το ΕΣΕΚ αποτελεί πλέον το βασικό πυλώνα στρατηγικής για την χώρα μας. Οι κύριοι στόχοι του συνοψίζονται στη διείσδυση των ΑΠΕ σε ποσοστό 35%, την εξοικονόμηση ενέργειας σε ποσοστό 38%, στην επιπρόσθετη μείωση εκπομπών GHG της τάξης των 10Mton (μεγατόνων) CO2 και στην αύξηση των ταξινομήσεων ηλεκτρικών οχημάτων σε ποσοστό μέχρι 30% έως το 2030.

Η επίτευξη των εν λόγω στόχων διανοίγει ταυτόχρονα νέες προοπτικές για την οικονομία της χώρας, αφού προϋποθέτει την εισροή μεγάλων επενδύσεων, Υπό αυτό το πρίσμα, αναμένουμε αλλά και προσδοκούμε την αύξηση των επενδυτικών ροών στα επίπεδα των  44 δισ. €, εκ των οποίων περί τα 9 δισ. θα κατανεμηθούν για την ηλεκτροπαραγωγή από Ανανεώσιμες Πηγές Ενέργειας, άλλα 5,5 δισ. θα απαιτηθούν για την ανάπτυξη υποδομών δικτύων ηλεκτρισμού, ενώ ακόμη 11 δισ. € θα κατανεμηθούν για μέτρα ενεργειακής απόδοσης. Για ΑΠΕ εκτιμάμε ότι θα προκύψουν 12,6 δισ. € υπό τη μορφή αύξησης της εγχώριας προστιθέμενης αξίας, άλλα 4,8 δις. ως αύξηση του εισοδήματος των εργαζομένων, ενώ, τέλος,  για την ενεργειακή αναβάθμιση των κτιρίων προκύπτουν  8,1δισ.  και 3,4 δισ. αντίστοιχα.Στο σημείο αυτό πρέπει να γίνει ειδική μνεία στη στρατηγική της κυβέρνησης για την απολιγνιτοποίηση, που αναμένεται να έχει ολοκληρωθεί έως το 2028, γεγονός που αποτελεί μια από τις πιο σημαντικές, στρατηγικά, κινήσεις της χώρας μας προς την κατεύθυνση της επίτευξης μιας καθαρής και πιο «πράσινης» οικονομίας έως το 2030.Ο στόχος της απολιγνιτοποίησης θα απαιτήσει μια γενναία στροφή στη χρήση του φυσικού αερίου, το οποίο έχει χαρακτηριστεί διεθνώς ως το «καύσιμο-γέφυρα» προς την ενεργειακή μετάβαση και την οικονομία μηδενικού άνθρακα.

Όμως, στο σημείο αυτό θα πρέπει να επισημανθεί ότι το Ευρωπαϊκό Σχέδιο Κανονισμού για την προγραμματική περίοδο 2021-2027, αποκλείει σε πολύ μεγάλο βαθμό την επιλεξιμότητα έργων υποδομών φυσικού αερίου, όσον αφορά στη χορήγηση κονδυλίων από το τρέχον ΕΣΠΑ 2021-2027, γεγονός που προκαλεί τον δικαιολογημένο προβληματισμό μας.Η Ελλάδα έχει σπεύσει να υποβάλει συγκεκριμένες προτάσεις στα αρμόδια όργανα  των Βρυξελλών, με απώτερο σκοπό την αναθεώρηση αυτής της απόφασης, λαμβάνοντας υπόψη  – μεταξύ άλλων –  ότι νέες υποδομές που τελούν σε στάδιο ωρίμανσης, στην παρούσα φάση, όπως το FSRU Αλεξανδρούπολης ή η Υπόγεια Αποθήκη Φυσικού Αερίου της Καβάλας, συντελούν στην διαφοροποίηση των πηγών ενέργειας και στην ενίσχυση της ασφάλειας εφοδιασμού της Ευρώπης.

Η Ελλάδα επιδεικνύει επίσης ιδιαίτερη εξωστρέφεια στα ζητήματα της διασυνοριακής μεταφοράς υδρογονανθράκων, που ενισχύουν την ενεργειακή ασφάλεια και ασφάλεια εφοδιασμού. Ο αγωγός TAP που σύντομα θα ολοκληρωθεί, αλλά και νέα φιλόδοξα project, όπως ο αγωγός East Med Pipeline, του οποίου η διακρατική συμφωνία κατατέθηκε πρόσφατα προς κύρωση από τη Βουλή, προσδίδουν μια  νέα δυναμική στο ρόλο της Ελλάδας στη ΝΑ Μεσόγειο. Η συνεργασία μας με όλα τα κράτη της περιοχής αποτελεί σταθερή επιδίωξη της κυβέρνησης του Κυριάκου Μητσοτάκη αλλά και ειδικότερα του Υπουργείου Περιβάλλοντος και Ενέργειας. Προσωπικά είμαι ιδιαίτερα χαρούμενη που συμμετέχω στις εργασίες ενός πολλά υποσχόμενου οργανισμού όπως το East Med Gas Forum με έδρα την Αίγυπτο, το οποίο μπορεί να αναδειχθεί σε «game changer» για την περιοχή της ΝΑ Μεσογείου.


Κλείνοντας, θεωρώ ότι το 5ο Παγκρήτιο Ενεργειακό Συνέδριο θα αποτελέσει μια ευκαιρία περαιτέρω διαλόγου και ανταλλαγής απόψεων για τα ενεργειακά δρώμενα της περιοχής μας, στα οποία η Ελλάδα διεκδικεί ενεργό και αποφασιστικό ρόλο.


* Η Αλεξάνδρα Σδούκου είναι Γενική Γραμματέας Ενέργειας & Ορυκτών Πρώτων Υλών στο Υπουργείο Περιβάλλοντος και Ενέργειας.

Το άρθρο γράφτηκε στα πλαίσια του 5ου Παγκρήτιου Ενεργειακού Συνεδρίου / International Conference  & Exhibition.

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