Greek PM: Gas exploration to start off Crete in coming days

Nov 6, 2022, 9:15 PM | Updated: Nov 7, 2022, 1:12 pm

In this photo provided by the Greek Prime Minister's Office, Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitso...

In this photo provided by the Greek Prime Minister's Office, Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis listens a question during an interview on Greece's ANTENNA TV , in Athens, Monday, Nov. 7 , 2022. Mitsotakis said U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil will "in the coming days" start seismic exploration for potential natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea off southwestern Greece. (Dimitris Papamitsos/Greek Prime Minister's Office via AP)

(Dimitris Papamitsos/Greek Prime Minister's Office via AP)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Exxon Mobil is poised to start a delayed gas prospecting project off southwestern Greece, the country’s leader said Monday amid tensions between Greece and Turkey over offshore rights and as Europe seeks alternative energy sources due to the war in Ukraine.

The U.S. energy giant will start seismic exploration “in the coming days” southwest of the southern Peloponnese peninsula and the island of Crete, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told private Antenna TV.

The project has been heavily criticized by environmental groups, which argue that the deep-sea prospecting would have “unbearable” consequences on endangered Mediterranean whales and dolphins. Critics also highlight the potential risk of spills, and say the project, if successful, would increase Greece’s use of fossil fuels amid the planet’s climate change crisis.

Mitsotakis insisted Monday that Greece remains dedicated to “fast green transition.” But he added: “Our country … must ascertain whether it currently has the ability to produce natural gas, which would contribute not only to our own energy security but also to that of Europe.”

European countries are scrambling to replace their former dependency on Russian fossil fuels following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent damaging of pipelines designed to bring natural gas from Russia to Germany.

Meanwhile, Greece and Turkey are at loggerheads over offshore exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean, and Turkish prospecting east of Crete in 2020 prompted a military build-up and bellicose rhetoric.

In 2019, Greece granted rights for exploration — which, however, didn’t go ahead — in two blocks of seabed south and southwest of the island of Crete to a consortium of TotalEnergies and Exxon Mobil with Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum.

The areas include the Mediterranean’s deepest waters. The Hellenic Trench, at 5,267 meters (17,300 feet) is a vital habitat for the sea’s few hundred sperm whales, and for other cetaceans already threatened by fishing, collisions with ships and plastic pollution.

These mammals are particularly sensitive to the underwater noise produced by seismic surveys for fossil fuels, in which sound waves are bounced off the seabed to locate potential deposits. Sonar used by warships has been shown to have deadly effects on whales, and experts say seismic surveys can do the same.

In his interview Monday, Mitsotakis also said Greece has canceled a tender under way to privatize the northeastern port of Alexandroupolis. The port, which Athens plans to turn into an energy hub receiving liquefied natural gas shipments, lies near the Turkish border and is also a key logistics center for U.S. military personnel and equipment deployed to Eastern Europe.

“The government has decided that currently Alexandroupolis is of such strategic, geopolitical and energy-linked importance to our country that it must remain in public ownership,” Mitsotakis said.


Follow all AP stories about climate change issues at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Juanita Beach Kirkland...

Kathy McCormack and Nick Perry, The Associated Press

‘Tis the season for swimming and bacteria alerts in lakes, rivers

With summer about to start, many people flocking to their favorite swimming holes may also want to read up on bacteria warnings.

16 hours ago

Image: Members of the Makah Indian tribe paddle away from the rising sun as they head from Neah Bay...

Associated Press

Washington’s Makah Tribe clears major hurdle toward resuming traditional whale hunts

The U.S. granted the Makah Indian Tribe a long-sought waiver that helps clear the way for its first sanctioned whale hunts since 1999.

2 days ago

jerry west...

Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press

Jerry West, a 3-time Hall of Fame selection and the NBA logo, dies at 86

Jerry West, a three-time Basketball Hall of Fame inductee whose silhouette is considered to be the basis of the NBA logo, died Wednesday morning.

3 days ago

Photo: Construction vehicles are parked outside of the Station U & O building on Tuesday, June 11, ...

Haleluya Hadero, The Associated Press

Amazon adds $1.4B to affordable housing fund for regions where it has corporate offices

Amazon is adding $1.4B to a fund for building more affordable housing in regions where the company has major corporate offices.

4 days ago

hunter biden...

Randall Chase and the Associated Press

Hunter Biden convicted of all 3 felony charges in federal gun trial

Hunter Biden has been convicted of all three felony charges related to the purchase of a revolver in 2018, but no sentencing date was set.

4 days ago

Photo: A Bremerton man who made 20 "swatting" calls around the U.S. and in Canada, prompting real e...

Associated Press

Bremerton man sentenced for 20 ‘swatting’ calls of false threats in US, Canada

A Bremerton man who made 20 "swatting" calls around the U.S. and in Canada, prompting real emergency responses, has been sentenced.

5 days ago

Greek PM: Gas exploration to start off Crete in coming days