UPDATED: Vast Gas Reserves Offshore Greece
On an official visit to Washington, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras informed President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry of Greece's "vast" natural gas reserves, mostly offshore.
More specifically, Samaras noted that during his talks with the Obama Administration an estimated 4.7 trillion cubic meters (tcm) of gas are located in Greece, an amount more than the estimated combined reserves of Cyprus and Israel, which are another 4.5 tcm. Based on those figures he assured that the Eastern Mediterranean contained 50% of the European Union's gas needs for the next 30 years and stretched the need for the construction of pipeline infrastructure to transfer these amounts to Europe so as to diversify its imports. As a comparison, Azerbaijan’s proven reserves are estimated at 900 billion cubic meters (bcm).
Greece has awarded Norwegian PGS to conduct a MC2D seismic survey for hydrocarbons in the West and Southern parts of its territory and mostly in offshore locations. Although there were several leaks by the company and Greek governmental officials citing "optimistic findings," it is the first time that a definite and impressive reserve figure is being provided and by the higher administration levels of the Greek state. PGS will have concluded its own assessment by the end of 2013 and thereafter interested companies will buy the data and then start negotiating bilaterally with the Greek state. It is speculated that companies such as Total, Noble Energy, Shell and Delek have already expressed an unofficial interest to the process.
Nevertheless, the critics cite that it is too early to make estimations on possible reserves, noting the Greek Administration is looking "boost" its political profile in US, so as to elevate the importance of the country as a source of substantial amounts of hydrocarbons. Moreover Turkey, traditionally seen as an adversary of both Greece and Cyprus and as of late, of Israel as well, is heavily lobbing Washington to attain the role of source-country for gas to be exploited from both Cyprus and Israel. Thus Samaras' proclamations may be seen as an attempt to stall potential US decisions on the issue, with the probability that Greece as well may have greater amounts, thus the role of the "bridge country" for the transfer of gas should be attained by Athens ultimately.
In the meantime the "Gas fever" is catching on in other Mediterranean countries with Lebanon, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Romania and Malta preparing to launch their trials for offshore reserve findings, although it is for sure that apart from enough quantities, economic aspects at hand such as production and transfer costs to markets in the Western and Central parts of Europe. In that sense the "hype" in the East Med region most certainly will settle down once economics are taken into account and by taking into consideration the massive gas infrastructure already in place by Russia, the great future elevation of the Azeri gas in the European energy mix and the alternative of the LNG trade in which the EU is gradually placing more importance. Lastly the political risk associated with the East Med gas should be considered, since it derives from a region inflicted by civil wars and political instability.