Greece Ratifies 4 Leases, Greenlighting Exploration After Two-Year Delay

Western Greece can expect new drilling activity from France’s Total and Italy’s Edison in the coming months, according to a go-ahead authorized by the nation’s parliament.

Four blocks, one offshore and three onshore, in the area had been ratified back in 2016, but gridlock prevented the parliament from ratifying the exploration contracts.

Sizeable gas finds in the Mediterranean have encouraged the Greek legislature to expedite exploration efforts. New taxable revenues could boost efforts to help the European nation emerge from years of economic strife.

Block 2 in the Ionian Sea was won by a Total-led a consortium that included the Greek refiner Hellenic Petroleum. The latter company also won the Arta-Preveza and Peloponnese onshore blocks and Greece’s sole oil producer, Energean, won the Aitoloakarnania block.

“We are turning a new page in the chapter of tapping into hydrocarbons,” Energy Minister George Stathakis told parliament before a vote to ratify the leases.

Higher oil prices and a more stable political landscape in Greece would also attract companies to sign up to explore the remaining 17 blocks out of 20 in the Ionian Sea and south of the island of Crete, for which no bidders competed in a 2014 offering.

Greece will start opening new onshore oil and gas blocks for exploration in 2018, the head of the Hellenic Hydrocarbons Resources Management (HHRM), Yannis Bassias, told Reuters in an interview published last May.

One of the first areas slated for opening is the region of Grevena in northern Greece, close to the route of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), Bassias said.

“As of next year, and perhaps earlier, we will begin announcing that we are opening the door to whoever is interested in onshore sites,” according to the head of Greece’s oil and gas resource management body.

Zainab Calcuttawala  for OilPrice.com