Activist countries

Balkan countries count on offshore platforms, LNG to replace Russian gas

Southeast European countries are urgently cutting red tape for offshore gas exploration and production, offering incentives and considering LNG as an alternative to Russian gas. Environmentalists oppose rapid change in energy policy.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has aggravated Europe’s serious energy crisis. The European Union and its member countries still formally keep their climate commitments and even promise to add more clean solutions than expected. At the same time, they want to replace Russian fossil fuel imports as quickly as possible, but renewables cannot cover all of the additional demand in the short term.

The biggest challenge is the dependence on Russian gas, which passes through pipelines. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the goal is to eliminate the need for Russian fossil fuels by 2027. Measures from the REPowerEU package, which are due to be rolled out next month, should bring more of clarity.

The EU will use far more renewables, nuclear power and coal than in the original Fit-for-55 package targets, according to preliminary information from the review process. Apparently there is also a vital role for hydrogen and biomethane, both of which can be used in place of fossil gas.

With the drastic increase in energy prices, the European Commission, EU Member States and fossil fuel companies are encouraging all investments in offshore gas, LNG terminals and related infrastructure

Funding such a venture is another matter. The EU has already adopted the NextGenerationEU package, worth more than €800 billion, as an emergency tool to accelerate the recovery from the pandemic and make it green. Either way, consumers can expect energy prices to remain high for years to come.

Across Europe, countries are rolling out and accelerating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal projects to source fuel elsewhere by sea. Many are also betting on domestic offshore gas projects, and the Balkans are no exception, as environmentalists sound the alarm over pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

A spike in the prices of any commodity or product, and the current spike in the fossil fuel and electricity sectors has been extreme, normally stimulates the business sector’s interest in investing.

Romania files offshore law to start offshore gas production sooner

Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă said last week that a bill to facilitate gas extraction in the Black Sea should start in the second half of the year. The bill aims to reduce taxes and remove fuel export restrictions. Black Sea Oil and Gas (BSOG) earlier said it would start extracting gas from its Romanian offshore project by the end of June.

The exploitation of the Neptune Deep field could start at the end of 2026 at the earliest, according to the Prime Minister. After ExxonMobil abandoned the project, Romgaz said it would acquire its 50% stake in the project, while OMV Petrom owns the rest.

Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă is convinced that BSOG will start production from its offshore well in the Black Sea this year

The Prime Minister added that the law would also help onshore gas production. Exploitation of Caragele in Buzău County, the largest gas field discovered in the past 30 years in Romania, is expected to start in 2024, Ciucă said.

In Bulgaria, TotalEnergies and OMV Petrom have obtained an extension of their oil and gas exploration license for the offshore block 1-21 Han Asparuh in the Black Sea, obtained in 2012. Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov underlined the importance of the country’s energy security project. The two companies plan to invest nearly 1.5 billion euros over the two-year period, according to the ministry.

Croatian INA brings oil assets online as sunken rig is left to rot

Croatia has revealed that it has increased the capacity of its LNG terminal on the island of Krk from 2.6 billion cubic meters per year to 2.9 billion. Additionally, the facility’s operator, LNG Hrvatska, told Montel that it plans to increase the volume to 3.5 billion cubic meters per year.

INA, owned by Hungarian MOL, began producing gas in March in the northern Adriatic from its new Ika B-1R-DIR offshore well. The company said the capacity is 55 million cubic meters per year.

Croatia scrapped offshore exploration drilling project six years ago

Production from another well was scheduled to begin this month. INA added that its third new unit will require the construction of a platform and that it will make an investment decision in the coming years. The company also conducts onshore exploration activities and develops new gas production units.

An offshore exploration drilling project was abandoned six years ago under public pressure and because potential investors pulled out of the projects.

Photo: Nevio Smajić / Greenpeace CEE – Greenpeace Croatia

Activists from the Croatian branch of Greenpeace demonstrated outside the INA headquarters in Zagreb to highlight the fact that 500 days after the sinking of the Ivana D gas platform there is still no information on the causes of the incident and no recovery effort. The government must step up oversight and review all offshore gas platforms, including methane leaks, campaigners said.

Five hundred days after INA’s Ivana D gas platform sank in the Adriatic Sea, officials remain mum on cause

They called for a moratorium on investment in fossil fuel infrastructure in the Adriatic for several decades. Greenpeace said the government is sending a message that the fossil fuel industry can do anything without consequences. The organization has called for the deployment of clean energy solutions to achieve true energy independence.

Neighboring Slovenia recently considered the possibility of building an LNG terminal on its Adriatic coast.

Turkey cuts taxes to speed up development of giant offshore gas field

Turkey has just said it supports Turkish Petroleum’s Sakarya offshore gas field project with tax exemptions. The $9.9 billion effort is expected to go live next year. The field in the southwest Black Sea was discovered in 2020. Reserves are estimated at 540 billion cubic meters.

The country gets nearly all of its fossil gas from abroad, mostly from Russia, but Sakarya is expected to cover a quarter of current imports when it reaches full capacity.

Turkey has carried out gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea in waters also claimed by Greece and Cyprus. Conversely, Cyprus is pushing for offshore hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation on its behalf, while the government in Ankara threatens to shut down the activities.

Greece to boost gas search efforts

Last week, Greece announced that the country would accelerate its efforts to explore and exploit potential oil and gas reserves and build infrastructure for hydrocarbons and gas pipelines. Greenpeace Greece has criticized the plan to speed up onshore and offshore gas extraction and transport to the rest of Europe, saying it is the wrong answer to the energy and climate crises.

The first exploration well in the Adriatic Sea off Montenegro proved dry. Yet more drilling for oil and gas is coming. Albania allows exploratory drilling offshore, but projects have been dormant for many years.

On the coal front, the closing date for certain electricity production units in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been postponed indefinitely. Greece has decided to produce 50% more lignite this year and two old coal-fired power stations could remain active longer if necessary. Romania is still sticking to its plan to phase out coal by 2032 and the government intends to increase its renewable energy targets, but in the meantime it is bringing power plants back into service inactive.



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