Cyprus weighing proposed pipeline to funnel natural gas from Israel

Energy minister says Cypriot government is waiting to hear from Jerusalem on how much gas it’s willing to export to Europe, amid energy crisis compounded by Russia’s war in Ukraine

Cyprus Energy Minister Natasa Pilides gestures during an interview with The Associated Press at the Energy ministry in the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, December 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Cyprus Energy Minister Natasa Pilides gestures during an interview with The Associated Press at the Energy ministry in the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, December 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The government of Cyprus is weighing a proposal for a pipeline that would carry natural gas from Israel to the island nation, where it would be processed and exported by ship to Europe and elsewhere as Russia’s war in Ukraine compounds an energy crisis, the Cypriot energy minister said Monday.

Minister Natasa Pilides said the government is mulling licensing requests from energy company Energean to move ahead with the plan once Israel decides how much offshore gas it would agree to export via such a pipeline. The plan to then liquify and ship the gas from Cyprus is a better option than a pipeline that would connect east Mediterranean gas deposits to Europe, she said.

“It’s lower cost, more technically feasible and provides a lot of flexibility in terms of the export routes via vessels,” Pilides told The Associated Press.

“And also, it’s a good opportunity for us to have infrastructure that is close to home so … if we want to utilize it for our own sources as well, then it will be an additional option,” she said. “It’s certainly worth discussing with our licensees.”

Cyprus is also looking to export its own gas. Pilides says a conservative estimate of the amount already discovered inside Cyprus’ offshore economic zone is 12-15 trillion cubic feet. Companies including ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum, as well as a consortium made up of France’s Total and Italy’s Eni, currently hold exploration licenses for more than half of the 13 blocks, or areas, that make up Cyprus’ zone.

Plans to develop Cyprus’ Aphrodite field that’s estimated to hold approximately 4.25 trillion cubic feet of gas are already in advanced stages. Chevron, along with partners Dutch Shell and Israeli NewMed, are set to submit a development plan for Aphrodite by the end of the year, with gas expected to reach markets by 2027.

An offshore drilling rig is seen in the waters off Cyprus’ coastal city of Limassol, July 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

To meet that timeline, Pilides said Chevron is “definitely” looking to pipe the Aphrodite gas to existing Egyptian processing plants. The company is considering several scenarios for the construction of smaller pipelines that would feed into existing ones to get the gas to Egypt.

Pilides said Chevron’s development plan needs to ensure the new pipelines offer Cyprus “enough availability for the export of our own gas” as sustainably as possible.

For ExxonMobil and the Eni-Total consortium, the amount discovered in the blocks to which they hold licenses will determine which option is best to get the gas to market, as well as supplying some of that for Cyprus’ energy needs, according to Pilides.

The minister said Eni/Total are expected to announce plans in the next few days that would allow them to to speed up exploration and development of block 6.

There’s enough natural gas in the east Mediterranean area for export until at least 2050, according to analyses by the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, a body composed eight countries including Greece, Italy, Egypt, Cyprus, Israel, France, Jordan and Palestine.

In the meantime, Cyprus is speeding up its transition to green energy with a number of projects, including the construction of an electric power cable connecting Israel, Cyprus and Greece that Pilides said would help prevent blackouts.

Key hurdles Cyprus needs to overcome if it wants to export excess energy are to expand its electric storage facilities and to harness new technology to address to its limited space for installing solar farms. One such solution is floating solar panels, said Pilides.

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