December 5, 2014 / 4:27 PM / 5 years ago

REFILE-INTERVIEW-Greece's Energean Oil eyes new drillings to fight oil price plunge

(Corrects name of CEO to Mathios Rigas from Rigas Mathios)

By Angeliki Koutantou

ATHENS, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Greece’s sole oil producer, Energean Oil & Gas, is sticking to its new drilling programme despite a plunge in oil prices that has led other companies to cut investment, its chief executive told Reuters on Friday.

Energean, 45 percent owned by U.S. hedge fund Third Point , currently produces 2,000 barrel per day (bpd) from two oil fields off the northern Greek island of Thassos.

But Chief Executive Mathios Rigas said the 40 percent plunge in oil prices since June put the fields at risk, unless the company pressed ahead with its $200 million investment to pump more crude out of the site and develop a new field.

“The fields are today break even with an oil price at $70 a barrel,” he said in an interview. “We are keeping the 300 jobs. But if production and the oil price stay at current levels, the whole development won’t be viable. So we need new drilling.”

Rigas, 47, formerly in charge of project finance at Chase Manhattan Bank in London, said a rig bought this year would be used to open 15 new wells off Thassos, starting in March, to help increase production to 5,000 bpd by 2016.

Since 2007, Energean has spent more than $200 million in new technology to pump more crude out of an almost defunct deposit.

Debt-laden Greece wants to tap its hydrocarbon potential to cut oil imports that totalled 15.6 billion euros in 2013, or 8.6 percent of its 185-billion-euro gross domestic product.

Energean signed in May a long-awaited deal with the state to search for oil in two blocks in the west of the country, which the government says may hold about 105 million barrels of oil and 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Encouraged by a new oil deposit in neighbouring Albania, Rigas hopes significant reserves could be found at one of the blocks in Ioannina, where production could start in 2020.

Greece had invited bids for deep-sea oil exploration in a vast offshore area in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete, but Energean was sceptical about signing up, due to falling prices and political uncertainty at home.

“The first thing that oil companies are cutting now is investment in deep seas”, Rigas said. “So we are all very cautious until we see what the situation will be in terms of oil prices and political developments in Greece”. (Editing by Mark Potter)

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