A fully developed hydrogen infrastructure, interconnected with countries to the North, will be available to Greece in less than two decades from today, which will allow it to continue playing the role of a transit country of green energy, but possibly also that of an exporter.
The above estimate was expressed today by the managing director of the National Gas System Operator (DESFA), Maria Rita Gali, speaking online at the 7th Southeast Energy Forum, which takes place in Thessaloniki. As he said, during the last months and weeks, important developments were launched in the Greece-Bulgaria interconnection project, in the fields of green gases and hydrogen. “Soon we will be able, together with “Bulgartransgaz”, to start the development of a project that will allow the connection of Greece and Bulgaria with green gases and the backbone pipeline will be able to be connected to the pipelines in the future in North Macedonia and the new East-West pipeline, which is expected to be built in 2024″.
Pending developments in the field of green energy, a priority for DESFA remains to ensure the increasing flow of gas from the South to the North, an area in which much progress has been made since 2022, according to Ms. Gali.
Indicatively, he said that the compression station in Komotini will allow the increase of the gas flow to the IGB (Interconnecting Pipeline Greece-Bulgaria) from 3 to 5 bcm (billion cubic meters) in less than two years. In addition, the compressor station at Ampelia Farsalon will allow for an increase in the already significant export flows from Sidirokastro to Bulgaria and further north.
The Greece-North Macedonia pipeline and the huge demand for gas at the Revythoussa station auctions
The managing director of DESFA also expressed her satisfaction with how quickly the intergovernmental agreement between Greece and North Macedonia for the construction of a natural gas pipeline between the two countries turned into an ongoing project.
He reiterated that even after receiving the Final Investment Decision (FID) of DESFA and Nomagas (the neighbor’s state gas transmission company), the construction of the pipeline in its Greek section is expected to start in early 2024.
Ms. Gali also emphasized that the market’s interest in the South-North Corridor remains huge, indicating that in the framework of the auctions currently underway, all the capacity of the Revythoussa station for 2027 and more has already been sold two-thirds of that of 2028 and the process will continue in the coming weeks.
“The market test during this year proved the huge interest of foreign “players” in the use of the Greek export and transit infrastructures, in order to approach the borders of Bulgaria and North Macedonia and from there to Central Europe, the Romania, Slovakia, Moldova and possibly Ukraine,” Ms Gali concluded.
To increase the regasification capacity
The joint commitment of Greece and Bulgaria to projects related to natural gas, at a time when the energy map in the wider region has completely changed, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, was underlined by Vladimir Malinov, CEO of Bulgartransgaz.
He added that the FSRU (Liquefied Natural Gas Storage and Regasification Unit) of Alexandroupolis will contribute to energy security and supply diversification and expressed the hope that it will be operational in early 2024.
He pointed out, however, that other terminal projects need to be developed and there is a greater regasification capacity, not only in Alexandroupolis, but also in other areas, a development that will also satisfy the basic goal of security and diversification in the energy supply, which is at the core of the creation of the Vertical Natural Gas Corridor.
According to Mr. Malinov, everything shows that in the next 15 years the demand for natural gas will be more than double, compared to the current capacity of the existing infrastructure, which further highlights the importance of the Vertical Corridor. Mr. Malinov also reminded that the (binding) phase of the market test for the project will be completed by the middle of 2024, while he announced that in two weeks a meeting of the project’s shareholders is expected to take place again.
He also mentioned the two joint projects of Greece (DESFA) – Bulgaria (Bulgartransgaz), which are underway for hydrogen (H2), including the “Smart Switch”, which will allow the passage of H2 (at a rate of 10% on of the total mix) from the existing gas networks. “At the moment we are doing studies on the necessary technical improvements, but I am optimistic that with a relatively small investment, we can increase this percentage to 15%” he underlined.
It is recalled that the full activation of the Vertical Corridor will significantly upgrade the role of the countries participating in it, for the security of supply of the EU energy market, allowing access to diversified sources of supply through European natural gas and LNG transmission systems. Subsequently, these same infrastructures are planned to be prepared for the transport of “green” gases and hydrogen.
The second FSRU will be ready in 2025-2026
At the core of the Vertical Corridor is the Alexandroupoli FSRU, which is expected to be operational in January 2024, while Gastrade’s second FSRU, “LNG Thrace” is estimated to be ready in 2025 or 2026, as pointed out by technical director of the company, Giorgos Kopanakis.
According to Mr. Kopanakis, the ship being converted to the FSRU unit is scheduled to leave Singapore for Greece in November, so that it will then arrive at its installation point and be operational in January 2024.
At the same time, the work on the coast is also estimated to be completed by the end of this month. As he said, this is a project that will upgrade the security of supply and energy diversification for 30 years for Greece – which, through its energy infrastructure, is at the center of geopolitical developments – and the wider region of Southeast Europe.
ICGB is already a member of the European Alliance for Clean Hydrogen, as there may be a high demand for natural gas at the moment, but “we also need to see how we can become more “green” and “hydrogen-ready” (ready to use hydrogen )”, pointed out the executive officer and board member of ICGB AD, Giorgos Satlas.
Teodora Georgieva, also ICGB AD executive officer and board member, pointed out that a few months after its launch in October 2022, the IGB already had about 90% of its capacity booked. Ms. Georgieva also expressed her belief that the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector Pipeline and the Alexandroupoli FSRU are “like brothers” in the effort being made for the Vertical Corridor and a good example of how it can work in an excellent way.