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Is Greece the Word?


Greece is not new to the E&P game with the first sign of potential indicated as far back as 1939 with oil shows in the Tavri-1 NFW (onshore NE Greece). It was not until the 1970s that activity really kicked off in Greece with more than 10 successful exploration wells, encountering oil, gas, and condensate in the Aegean Sea as well as a couple on the south east coast of the Greek region of Macedonia. It was during this time that the only currently producing fields in Greece, Prinos (Miocene reservoir), and South Kavala were discovered. Energean acquired the Prinos concession in 2007 which included the Prinos oil field (est. 2P reserves of 17.8MMbo and 2.9 Bcf), Prinos North Satellite field (est. 2P of 3.3 MMbo and 0.4 Bcf), and South Kavaka gas field (thought to have remaining gas reserves of approximately 2.6 Bcf).  Energean also acquired the Epsilon field, discovered in 2000, with similar Miocene reservoirs as the Prinos complex it is estimated to hold 2P reserves of 19 MMboe. The last exploration well drilled in Greece was in 2005, the successful appraisal well Kallirahi-2 (TD 2,970m).

Recently attention has turned back to the Mediterranean region due to several successes in the Eastern Mediterranean such as the 2011 Aphrodite discovery (Miocene sands) in Cyprus, with estimated 4.5 Tcf of recoverable reserves or the 2015 Zohr discovery (Miocene carbonate) in Egypt with 30 Tcf GIIP.

Exploration in Greece Re-ignites

Greece launched an Open Door invitation on January 2, 2012 resulting in the award of three blocks between September and October 2014:

  • Ioannina to Repsol (60 percent farminee) and Energean (40 percent) (4,187 sq km, onshore)
  • West Patraikos Gulf to Hellenic Petroleum (50 percent) and Edison (50 percent) (1,892 sq km, offshore),
  • Katakolon to Energean (100 percent) (545 sq km, offshore)

The area in the western part of Greece was advertised as having the potential to hold around 250 MMbo, however this has yet to be proved. Hopefully good news will follow the spud of the commitment well on West Patraikos Gulf block due in 2019 (water depths 50-450m). The primary play on the acreage is the Eocene-Cretaceous carbonate succession, with a working hydrocarbon system proven by the 1981 Katakolon oil discovery (West Katakolon), lying approximately 35km south east of Katakolon block. The West Katakolon Field Development Plan has also been approved and first oil is expected late 2020, with estimated 10 MMbo recoverable reserves.


Since the Open Door invitation in 2012 interest in Greece has continued to grow with a number of big names being awarded licenses in 2018. Offshore acreage has focused on the Ionian Sea and Mediterranean Sea deep water frontier areas south of Crete which were covered by a 2D multi-client seismic survey in 2012. Acreage includes Block 2 west of Corfu which was formally awarded on February 28, 2018 to Total, Hellenic Petroleum, and Edison International. This has been succeeded in Q3 2018 with several pre-awards, including Southwest Crete and West Crete offshore blocks to Total-ExxonMobil-Hellenic Petroleum, and the Ionian offshore block to Repsol and Hellenic Petroleum.

Activity onshore Greece has also picked up with four awards (Aitoloakarnania, Arta-Preveza, Ioannina, and NW Peloponnese) along the western coastline. Unlike the frontier offshore acreage the area is generally better explored and in places petroleum systems have been proven. One example is Ioannina (4,187 sq km) on the border with Albania and awarded in 2014 to Energean. In 2018 Repsol farmed in with 60 percent and operates the license with a 400 km 2D survey ongoing on the block during Q3 2018. The block is believed to be an extension of proven analogues in Albania and Italy and lies on trend with the Shpirag oil & gas discovery in Albania. A number of wells have been drilled on the acreage with oil & gas shows encountered suggesting a working source rock.

Building on momentum the Greek Ministry and the Hellenic Hydrocarbon Resources Management (HHRM) state company are currently promoting five new offshore areas in the Central Ionian Sea and South of Crete, as well as the onshore Mesohellenic Basin. Among other concepts, HHRM believe that the Western Hellenic napes, with known hydrocarbon potential, may extend further west in the Central Ionian Sea area and in the Southeast. South of Crete areas are believed to have both stratigraphic and structural plays in carbonates (possible Zohr analogue) and Neogene siliciclastics. The Mesohellenic Basin holds Eocene to Miocene stratigraphic plays and is gas prone. Interested parties can approach HHRM directly for open door discussions.

Why Greece?

Greece appears to be emerging from the 2009 fiscal crash with a more stable economic and political environment and a competitive fiscal regime. These are important factors to why Greece is becoming increasingly desirable, highlighted further by recent geo-political tensions elsewhere in the Med between Cyprus and Turkey over disputed offshore boundaries. There are of course some downsides to Greece’s frontier acreage. With water depths ranging from 2,000m to 3,500m it will not be an easy environment in which to work. However, with the next frontier New Field Wildcat likely to be on Block 2 in three years’ time, it’s hoped further advances in this area and a higher oil price will enhance the region’s attractiveness for exploration investment.

Greece’s location also works in its favor with a number of local pipelines already in place and two major developments upcoming. The first is the 878km Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) which is currently under construction and planned to connect with the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) at the Greece-Turkey border. TAP will then cross Northern Greece and Albania to connect with the Italian Gas network. The pipeline will form part of the 1,800km Southern Gas Corridor with the South Caucasus gas pipeline. Installation permission to construct the pipeline in Greece was granted on June 8, 2016. The second pipeline project, in the pre-development stage, is the EastMed pipeline, which if completed, is designed to transport an initial 10 Bcm/y. The pipeline is planned to connect East Mediterranean resources from the Levantine Basin in offshore Cyprus and Israel to Europe via an interconnector from Greece to Italy. Not only will the planned pipelines increase ease of production locally from Greece but will also help to reduce Europe’s dependency on Russia for gas.

With the West Patraikos Gulf exploration well expected in 2019 and plans to drill the frontier acreage in the coming years, we still have to wait and see if Greece can deliver like its East Mediterranean neighbors.

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Lisa Randall

Lisa Randall has been Drillinginfo’s E&P Analyst for Continental Europe since July 2017, providing insights and writing editorial content on regional activity. Prior to Drillinginfo, she was a geotechnical and environmental engineer. Lisa holds an MSc degree in Petroleum Geoscience from the University of Manchester and BSc Honors degree in Geology from the University of Edinburgh.

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