Natural gas as a bridge fuel in energy

HHRM’s chairman and CEO, Ioannis Bassias, spoke during IENE’s 24th annual conference “Energy and Development 2019”, where he talked about current and future concessions, the new landscape drawn by developments in the sector in SE Europe as well as the crucial role of natural gas.

Based on the energy transition and the scheduled renewables penetration up to 30%, Mr. Bassias highlighted the important role of natural gas by saying:

“Of course, no one ignores the need to turn to renewables. However, investors in Greece, even ones who invest into renewables, turn their attention to LNG, natural gas and relative infrastructure. The business is sound, investments look forward to being ready for the upcoming changes. There is the target for a 30-35% renewables penetration. But what will happen with the remaining 60-65%? It needs to be covered somehow in the next decade, especially if lignite plants are shut down, as it has been decided for 2028. This demand will have to be covered by natural gas, which will act as a bridge fuel in the following decades and as long as there is need to increase renewables share from 14% to significantly higher levels”.

Delays in exploration

When it comes to advancing exploration and production of hydrocarbons in Greece, Mr. Bassias said that there are delays caused by two factors: a) the fact that this market started developing just 10 years ago, therefore there is not enough experience and necessary technology (“despite the fact that both are advanced quickly by relative bodies”, as he mentioned) b) the fact that there are reactions concerning the environment that are sometimes based on specific reasons and sometimes not. “There should already be 2-3 active drillings, but nothing happens. We must accelerate operations in Greece. The issue of delays is very concerning because the time frame is very short. Nonetheless, the industry is here. There is knowhow and big foreign companies invest in Greece. They have experience in environmental issues, large capital and advanced technology. They know what they are looking for. If, for example, they do not find volumes south and SW of Crete that reach 500 million boe per structure, they are going to leave. Costs for 2,000 meters are 25-27 dollars, for 3,000 meters they are 27-30 dollars. In order to get their money back they need to discover large volumes”, noted Mr. Bassias.

As for the current concessions, Mr. Bassias said they are 11, while new areas are presented to international companies.

HHRM’s role

After concluding his speech, Mr. Bassias was called to answer the question whether HHRM can act on the right provided by the EU to change the legal framework and take over public involvement. HHRM’s chairman said that “HHRM begun operating in November, 2016, after gathering a proper and flexible technical, legal and financial team, which has nothing to be jealous of compared to a small E&P company. If the legal framework changed, we could do that. It is a matter of political decree. What is certain is that drilling is not a matter for states and HHRM represents the state in dealing with all issues concerning E&P. Thus, it is not willing today to play the role of a public E&P company, something that would require considerable investment on behalf of the Greek state, which I suspect has other vital priorities”.

Makrides: Hydrogen must immediately be included in the Greek energy agenda

Dr. Sofoklis Makrides, a professor of the engineering school of Patras University, spoke in IENE’s conference about hydrogen’s role and the need to effectively and immediately include it in the country’s regulatory and energy system following the example of many other countries inside and outside Europe.

Dr. Makrides, as “the man of hydrogen” as he was characterized by participants, developed practical applications for producing hydrogen, storing it and for big companies to use it in energy.

“The era after lignite cannot start from zero and it is possible to initially transition to producing hydrogen – gray hydrogen”, as he mentioned. During the first phase, through the first project of its kind in the world, hydrogen will be produced through lignite using a CO2 capture technology. This capture can be attained by geopolymers, according to Mr. Makrides, mentioning a project where he participates with KU Leuven, one of the 100 most innovative universities globally. In this project, the following companies take part and produce 3 tonnes of hydrogen initially. The project will create emissions only equal to those of 20 cars (Marubeni Corporation, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, J-POWER, Sumitomo Corporation, Iwatani Corporation).

He added that “the transition from ‘green’ hydrogen to ‘blue’ hydrogen can be also accomplished in boating through the German team supported by the energy and economy ministry. As an example, he mentioned the construction of a 20-25 seat boat with half the price compared to electric boats for 4-6 people, thus approaching the boat market – blue hydrogen – with zero emissions and a long range. Based on this fact, he estimates that the transition from theory to practice can take place immediately.

Mr. Makrides is the only Greek scientist with scientific work in metallic alloys for effective hydrogen storage and he has been awarded by IKY and the education ministry. Given his experience, he noted that metalloids can be used for storing hydrogen with an alkaloid fuel cell.

One of his basic proposals is for PPC, DESFA and DEPA to include hydrogen in their energy portfolios and in their overall strategy by highlighting hyrdrogen’s connection to natural gas. As he noted, the largest part of green or blue hydrogen (after CCS) is produced through natural gas. He spoke about the transition from renewables to alternative energy sources as 18% of global energy demand can be covered by 2030 by hydrogen and help reduce emissions by 6 gigatonnes annually.

“Nothing can withstand a timely idea. It is now the time for hydrogen”, he characteristically said.

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