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 on Monday.
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.
HHRM will begin compiling data packages for the Grevena region and for central regions, Bassias told Reuters.
Greece, which has been struggling with a severe debt crisis in the past few years and has received billions of euros of EU- and IMF-backed bailout support, is trying to resume efforts to search for hydrocarbons both onshore and offshore and possibly lessen its dependence on energy imports in the future.
In October last year, Greece’s energy ministry named a consortium led by France’s Total SA and comprised of Italy’s Edison and Greece’s largest refiner, Hellenic Petroleum, as the preferred bidder to drill for gas in an offshore block in the Ionian Sea west of the country.
Just last week, Greek company Energean signed a lease agreement with the Greek government for the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas at the Aitoloakarnania block, onshore Western Greece.
According to Bassias, the first new onshore and offshore drilling would start in two years if the parties overcome all bureaucratic obstacles.
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, Bassias told Reuters.