Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has embarked on a four-day visit to Moscow to secure a $1 billion deal with Russia to develop a natural gas field off the coast of the Gaza Strip.
The plan, which Abbas and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were expected to sign during Abbas’s visit, would allow joint Palestinian-Russian exploitation of gas fields off the Gaza coast.
Russian energy giant Gazprom is involved in the discussions on mining the Gaza gas fields, which could yield some 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas, AFP reported. Technopromexport, a Russian engineering firm, is also in discussions on an oil field project near Ramallah, in the West Bank.
It was unclear how much control Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have over Gaza, which is governed by Hamas.
While the Gaza natural gas field was discovered over a decade ago by a British Gas (now BG Group), it was never developed. In October 2013, Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair said Israel and the Palestinians were in talks over developing it.
Russia has been keen to enter the Mediterranean gas market. Earlier in January, Moscow signed a 25-year deal with the embattled Assad regime to giving Russia’s state-controlled Soyuzneftgas company exclusive rights over an area over 2,000 square kilometers wide.
The discoveries are just a portion of the huge reserves in the Levant Basin, which the United States Geological Survey estimated in 2010 holds some 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas.
In Israel, the Tamar deposit, and especially the heftier Leviathan, which was discovered in 2010, are expected to provide the country with enough natural gas for decades and transform the country, famously empty of natural resources, into an energy exporter.
Leviathan, which boasts an estimated 16 to 18 trillion cubic feet of gas, is expected to go online in 2016, the approximate time when exports are expected to begin.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.