Greece picks consortiums for oil and gas exploration

ATHENS, July 4 Thu Jul 4, 2013 5:42pm EDT

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ATHENS, July 4 (Reuters) - Greece has picked two consortiums led by Energean Oil and Hellenic Petroleum to search for oil and natural gas in two blocks in the western part of the country, the energy ministry said on Thursday, as cash-strapped Athens seeks to save money on energy imports.

Greece, which produces almost no oil or natural gas, aims to develop potential hydrocarbon reserves as part of an effort to overhaul its economy and lessen dependence on foreign energy sources.

The Energean Oil-led consortium will explore for oil and gas near the town of Ioannina in northwestern Greece while the consortium led by Hellenic Petroleum, Greece's biggest refiner, will explore near the town of Patras.

"Today we have opened a new page for the Greek market," Energy Minister Yannis Maniatis said in a statement. "The expected benefits are many: an increase in government revenue, the creation of new jobs."

The ministry said it expects revenues from these two regions to reach about 11 billion euros ($14.2 billion) over the next 25 years.

Almost 200 fruitless test wells have been bored in various parts of Greece in the past century, the most recent about 12 years ago. But most of the tests were badly managed or carried out at the wrong locations, Greek officials said.

Athens spends about 10 billion to 12 billion euros per year on oil imports. Territorial disputes with neighbouring Turkey prevent Athens from looking for oil in the country's east. ($1 = 0.7744 euros) (Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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