Greece looks to boost coal, gas and oil output to replace Russian imports
Greece is hoping to boost the exploitation of its offshore natural gas reserves and burn more filthy brown coal or lignite to reduce reliance on Russian energy imports.
The European Union is seeking ways to cut its use of Russian gas by two-thirds this year and completely phase it out by 2027.
Surveys in six potential gas fields in the Ionian Sea and off the coast of Crete should be completed by 2024, said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Cheap gas imports and low crude prices in recent years, a shift to green energy and a lack of political will have stalled Greek oil and gas exploration plans.
Greece has suffered from severe forest fires in recent summers, which have been blamed on global warming.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing international energy crisis have added to the very serious level of uncertainty in all our lives,” the right-wing prime minister said.
“I would like to emphasise that this new path in no way diverts us from the long-term goals of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.”
Last week Greece said it would boost domestic coal production and liquefied natural gas (LNG) capacity with plans to build two storage depots.
Energean, the only oil producer in Greece, will drill at an onshore block in western Greece, said CEO Mathios Rigas.
Greece’s energy authorities say they want to conclude a first round of seismic surveys to identify gas fields in one onshore and five offshore areas in western Greece and near Crete by March 2023.
The authorities hope to export gas to Bulgaria and North Macedonia, which are both reliant on Russian gas.
Last Thursday the Greek authorities announced plans to double the production of lignite, probably the most polluting way to produce power.
Around 40 per cent of Greece’s natural gas comes from Russia but the invasion of Ukraine has left European nations scrambling to find alternative sources of fossil fuels.
“Lignite is polluting and in normal circumstances, natural gas is cheaper,” said government spokesman Giannis Ekonomou, adding that it was “necessary” for the next two years. Gas is far less polluting than black coal and brown coal is far dirtier than black coal.
Mitsotakis last week inaugurated a solar plant and said Greece’s energy policy needs to be flexible. He repeated his pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Green commitments are incompatible with increasing lignite production.
The government had pledged to close its coal power plants by next year but these plans have now been shelved.
The Greek climate is ideal for heavy investment in solar energy. Picture credit: Pexels