Oil “guru,” geologist, entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael Johnson (Giannakopoulos), who initiated horizontal drilling, a new technique that has perfected fracking–invented by another Greek-American, George Mitchel– making possible the discovery of the Parshall oil field in North Dakota with oil reserves of 15 billion barrels, believes that in parts of the Aegean, southern and especially western Greece, there is oil in abundance waiting to be extracted. He pointed out that even Herodotus–more than 2,000 years ago–knew about the oil in Zakynthos!
In an interview with NEO magazine during one of his recent visits to New York, Johnson explained that in the ‘90s he tried to get drilling rights to the famous oil seep at Dragopsa, Epirus. But after years of trying to cut through the institutional inefficiency and corruption he finally gave up. His experience proves what we’ve known all along: that Greece isn’t an OPEC country because the various factions that vie for money and power behind the scene haven’t come to terms as to the division of kickbacks! The oil is still there, however, waiting to be taken out of the ground and exploited if the right people ever come to government and open the process without closing the eye to special interests. Mr. Johnson won’t be there, though, preferring the Florida calmness to going through the experience in Greece again. Like many others who tried to do business in Greece and got burnt, he is unwilling to try his luck and patience once more no matter what the potential benefits.......
What about the reports with the abundance of oil in the Aegean Sea. Is there truth in that?
The oil potential in Greece has been recognized since the time of Herodotus, who in about 400 B.C. described the oil seeps on the island of Zakynthos. Other indications of oil exist in Greece. Neighboring Albania produces 18 thousand barrels of oil per day, so Greece is in oil country. However, Greece produces only 1,000 barrels per day from Prinos, its only commercial oil field that is located in the northern Aegean Sea. It has produced 120 million barrels with remaining reserves of some 40 million barrels. The Aegean Sea has great additional oil potential.
So, there is oil there…
I think western Greece has a lot of potential, also. Mostly in Epirus, east of the city of Egoumenitsa. I have visited the famous oil seep at Dragopsa. We have a lookalike to western Greece in the states of Utah and Wyoming where we have 200 million barrel oil fields. These fields are already productive and geologically are very similar to the geologic setting in western Greece. That’s why I went to Greece in the mid ‘90s trying to get a concession in Epirus. We worked with DEP, the Greek National Oil Company. I had the backing of a large independent Denver-based oil company. We spent four to five years negotiating and gathering data with the cooperation of DEP. However, government red tape and “the “fakello” (the envelope – kick back) is what caused failure.
The offshore Ionian Sea and the north offshore of Crete also have potential. Greece has already done detailed seismic that is available for review and in 2015 Prime Minister Samaras began plans for offering concessions but the government change caused cancellation. The potential still exists though.