Greece

Accounting in 2012 for over 30 % of the country’s total primary energy supply of 37.1 Mtce, lignite is Greece’s most important indigenous energy resource, although the country does have modest oil and gas reserves. Oil accounted for approximately 45 % of the country’s primary energy supply and Greece has a large refining industry which exports oil products. Consumption of imported natural gas increased significantly until the global economic crisis hit in 2008; gas had a 15 % share in 2012. At 0.4 Mtce, hard coal imports accounted for 1.2 % of total primary energy supply in 2012. Security of supply, low extraction costs and stable prices are important reasons why lignite will maintain a strong position in the energy market.

Lignite

Greece boasts lignite resources of 4.7 billion tonnes and 3.0 billion tonnes of economically workable reserves. The most important deposits are located in the north of the country at Ptolemais - Amynteon and Florina (1.5 billion tonnes) which contribute around 80 % of production. Other deposits lie at Drama (900 million tonnes) and at Elassona (170 million tonnes), as well as in the south at Megalopolis (225 million tonnes). There is also a large peat deposit of about 4 billion cubic metres at Philippi in the northern part of Greece (Eastern Macedonia). Only 30 % of the total lignite reserves have been extracted to date and remaining reserves are good for over 40 years at current production rates.

Lignite deposits in Greece lie at an average depth of 150 to 200 metres and typically comprise layers of lignite alternating with layers of mineral. In 2012, 257.2 million cubic metres of overburden and interburden were excavated at the principal mines.

The quality of Greek lignite can be characterised as follows: the lowest calorific values are in the areas of Megalopolis and Drama (3 770 to 5 020 kJ / kg) and Ptolemais - Amynteon (5 230 to 6 280 kJ / kg). In Florina and Elassona the calorific value lies between 7 540 and 9 630 kJ / kg. The ash content ranges from 15.1 % (Ptolemais) to 19.0 % (Elassona), and the water content from 41.0 % (Elassona) to 57.9 % (Megalopolis). The sulphur content is generally low.

Lignite is mined by the PUBLIC POWER CORPORATION (PPC) exclusively in opencast mines. This majority state - owned company is the largest lignite producer in Greece. It operates mines in Western Macedonia at Main Field, South Field, Kardia Field, Amynteon Field and Florina. PPC also has an opencast site in the Peloponnese region of southern Greece, in the Megalopolis Field. Bucket - wheel excavators, spreaders, tripper cars and conveyor belts are used to mine and transport lignite at these sites. PPC currently operates 48 bucket – wheel excavators and 22 spreaders, together with more than 300 km of belt conveyor lines. Heavy trucks are used to remove the hard overburden formations found at some mines.

In 2012, lignite production amounted to 62.2 million tonnes, mostly mined by PPC, with 52.1 million tonnes extracted by the company at the West Macedonia Lignite Centre (WMLC) and 9.6 million tonnes at the Megalopolis Lignite Centre (MLC). The few privately operated mines in the West Macedonia area produced a total of 1.1 million tonnes of lignite.

In 2012, WMLC operations removed a total of 236.2 million cubic metres of overburden and interburden, corresponding to an overburden - interburden - to - lignite ratio of 4.53 cubic metres per tonne. At MLC, overburden plus interburden removal was 21.1 million cubic metres, corresponding to an overburden - interburden - to - lignite ratio of 2.2 : 1. Although the overburden - interburden - to - lignite ratio has significantly increased in recent years, it is expected to remain stable in the future. The two mining areas, WMLC and MLC, and the head office in Athens, currently employ a total permanent workforce of about 3 720.

Environmental protection is one of the major parameters defining PPC’s overall strategy and its daily mining activities. In the lignite mining areas around Ptolemais - Amynteon and Megalopolis, PPC has carried out site restoration projects to create farmland, tree plantations, woodland, sanctuaries for small animals and crop testing areas.

At the end of 2012, PPC’s power generation plants accounted for approximately 68 % of the country’s total installed capacity of 16.5 GW and include lignite – and gas - fired plants, oil - fired plants on interconnected and autonomous islands, hydro plants, wind farms and solar PV plants. There are also six private power plants with a total capacity of 2 564 MW. PPC owns eight lignite - fired power plants comprising 21 units with a total installed capacity of 5 180 MW. In 2012, lignite - fired generation accounted for 52 % of a total interconnected system output of 53.1 TWh which excludes the autonomous islands. The share of gas was 27 %, oil 0.2 %, hydro 8.6 % and renewables 9.4 %.

Lignite’s future role in Greece will depend on changes taking place in the European energy sector, including the cost of CO2 emission allowances. Nevertheless, low - cost domestic lignite is still competitive compared to imported energy sources such as natural gas. PPC faces important changes relating to the regulatory framework governing energy market liberalisation. Strategic priorities now include the replacement of old and inefficient plants and the promotion of renewable investments. However, the current recession has a negative impact on any new investment and the government’s “green policy” means that while renewables are displacing generation from lignite and natural gas, the cost of producing electricity has increased: in 2013, consumers will be asked to pay € 29 / MWh in renewables subsidies, up from € 9 / MWh in 2012. This increase comes at a time when electricity production has fallen 8.5 % below its 2008 peak and unpaid electricity bills total € 1.3 billion – dramatic indications of the impact that high energy prices have on an economy.

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