Oil report

UPDATE 1-Total, Exxon express interest in oil and gas exploration off Crete

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ATHENS, May 31 (Reuters) - A consortium that includes Total and Exxon Mobil has submitted an expression of interest in oil and gas exploration and exploitation in two sites off the Greek island of Crete, the energy ministry said on Wednesday.

Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum is the other company in the consortium.

Greece has launched an ambitious programme to discover more oil and gas, encouraged by recent large gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean and spurred on by its protracted financial crisis.

Last week it granted a concession to Hellenic Petroleum for onshore exploration at two sites in the west of the country, and to privately held Energean for another block.

Greece’s energy minister also held talks with representatives of Total and ExxonMobil last week about exploration opportunities.

In 2014 Greece tendered 20 blocks in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete but only three were successfully offered.

“If there is evidence of the existence of exploitable hydrocarbons, it is certain that our country will enter a new era,” Hellenic Petroleum Chairman Efstathios Tsotsoros said in a statement.

It would entail “obvious benefits for the national economy, local societies, as well as the upgrading of Greece in geopolitics and energy,” he said.

The head of Greece’s oil and gas resources management company told Reuters on Monday he was confident firmer crude prices a more stable political climate in Greece would attract prospectors to those sites. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Susan Fenton)