By Energy Press.
In Greece, during the last years, there has been considerable debate about the great potential in the hydrocarbon sector and its key geostrategic position, which may be appropriate even for the creation of an international hub for the passage of crucial channels. Nevertheless, the above mentioned aspects have not been proven yet.
What is safe to say is that, so far, Greece and the wider Balkan region do form a region of competition against the US, Russia and China. As it is well known, Russia, besides the frequent gas supply in Greece, has been unsuccessfully working with Greece on various energy projects so far, while China has proceeded rapidly to implement important programmes in the country, which opened the way to Europe. The US from their part, not taking into consideration the interest for the unexplored hydrocarbons southeast of Crete on behalf of Exxon Mobil - following the victory of Donald Trump in the elections and the announcement of Exxon’s president, Rex Tillerson as Minister -, support Greece through its statements. The US support the TAP pipeline and endorse projects such as the EAST-MED and the LNG terminal in Alexandroupolis. However, the Greek economic recession does not need wishes, but actions. It needs determined American entrepreneurs to build sustained infrastructure, with vision, enthusiasm, persistence and the conviction that they will succeed on what they wish to do in Greece. The country is in a situation where it needs people who have the characteristics of Odysseus and Aristotle Onassis and dare to implement crucial investment plans.
Are there investors in the US energy sector interested in Greece?
Of course there are and they stand next to the Greeks, ready to support them. The Greek side needs to not only remember his name, as this is the case so far, but also to accept his active co-operation, both in the energy and the economic field. Charif Souki is the founder of Cheniere Energy and the Tellurian Investments in the Gulf of Mexico. Together with the “father” of the American shale gas, George Mitchell, along with the successors of Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward of Chesapeake, as well as Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, who developed the shale oil, the Lebanese Charif Souki is amongst the gurus who changed the map of the American and global energy. Charif Souki’s close relationship with Greece is a personal choice. His father, Samyr, was a Christian Orthodox and went to Greek churches in Cairo and later on in Beirut and Paris, as riots broke out in Lebanon. As a correspondent of the United States Press Agency and after that of the Newsweek magazine in the Middle East, Samyr had a daily contact with all Middle Eastern, Western world leaders and business elites. His son, Sharif, met in person, from a very young age, all the leading actors that helped him later on in his professional career.
As he grew up in Beirut, Charif visited Greece more than once, before taking action in the energy sector. As far as the contemporary energy issues concern, Charif was briefed in detail by his son’s (Tarek) Greek friend, Dr. Kostas Andriosopoulos, the Chairman of the Hellenic Association for Energy Economics (HAEE) and Executive Director of the Research Centre for Energy Management (RCEM) in London of the international French Business School ESCP Europe.
After a carefree youthful life in the pre-war cosmopolitan Lebanon and his financial studies at Columbia University in New York, Charif Souki became an extremely successful banker in the investment sector in New York and travelled all around the world with a specialty to attract billion-dollar international investments from the Middle East - a market which he thoroughly knew- as well as Europe, USA, Russia and China. Soon he began to invest his own money and became a millionaire. In 1978 he resigned from the company that he worked in and started investing in refineries, hotels, offices, fashion houses, film companies, technology, industries, tourism and wherever he found opportunities worldwide.
In 1986, Charif Souki moved with his wife to Aspen, Colorado, which reminded him of the snowy Lebanese peaks, where he was skiing when he was young. He lived there for almost eight years, dealing with restaurants and clubs, both in Aspen, the "millionaire’s village", and in Los Angeles. He then moved to Los Angeles, where he entered into the high technology investments to quickly end up to energy.
At that time, the shale gas industry had not yet been developed. The US was thirsty for gas, and Charif Souki, who personally knew the kings, the princes and the businessmen of the LNG producing countries, undertook the shale gas imports to the USA by constructing a liquefied natural gas LNG gasification plant through his new company, Cheniere Energy. As a specialist in attracting investments, it was not so hard to collect $12 billion, which was the cost of Cheniere's facilities at Corpus Cristi. His friends, investors, bankers, stockbrokers, the financial elite of New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Riyadh, Doha trusted him and invested in his initiative.
In 1989, he moved to Houston, but George Mitchell and Chesapeake's associates discovered the system that allowed the gas extraction from the shale and began to produce huge quantities of natural gas, which created the need for exporting abroad instead of the opposite, that used to be the case until then.
Charif grabbed the opportunity and travelled in the Middle East, London, New York and other crucial capitals. He returned to Texas, determined to turn his huge and expensive plant from an import unit to a gas liquefaction unit and export US LNG. It took an additional $10 billion, an amount which he managed to collect.
"Energy guru," "LNG genius," "visionary that shows the path for new promising horizons", "champion with the Mida's charisma," are some of Charif Souki’s titles, who overturned the global energy balance, setting on the map the American LNG. He was always the first, he took initiatives, he created his own rules and forced the US energy policy to follow him. The executives of the State Department and the US Department of Energy are trying to keep up with him and evaluate the geopolitical importance of his initiatives. His colleagues and himself are next to all of the energy developments in Europe and especially in the Greek region.
When he was forced to quit Cheniere, due to financial reasons, he immediately founded Tellurian Investments and started to construct a new LNG production plant in Louisiana. In his third great effort, he still manages to find investors on his own.
In a statement that he made on Wednesday, the 17th of January 2018, in CNBC's TV network, Charif Souki said that he is negotiating the co-operation aspects between Tellurian and over 100 major US and foreign corporations, while Total, which owns the 23.5% of his company, invested $200 million and General Electric $25 million for the construction of the new shale gas liquefaction plant named Driftwood LNG, starting in 2019 and will be completed in 2022 at Calcasien Parish, Louisiana. The project is estimated to cost $12 billion and produce $26 million tons of LNG per year. According to Bloomberg, on January the 12th, Tellurian CEO, Meg Gentle, said at an Abu Dhabi conference, that Saudi Arabian Oil Co will be among these 100 companies. She also stated that Tellurian will produce the cheapest LNG in the world by 2023.
At the same time, Charif's son, Tarek Souki, will speak at the HAEE Annual International Conference on 3-5 May in Athens, while his assistant, Melina Jasserand, participated in a recent Forum, organized by the Research Centre for Energy Management in London. Tellurian executives will also take part in Energy Conferences of the New York Times in Athens, and of CEE Gas in Zagreb and Budapest.
Will the thirsty for investment Greece be a new "Ithaca" for the Christian Souki family, who started from the neighboring Lebanon to shape the US gas export policy?