NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus and Israel are working on a deal to build a pipeline that will convey natural gas from both countries to the east Mediterranean island nation, where it will be liquefied for export by ship to Europe and potentially elsewhere, the Cypriot energy minister said Monday.
Minister Giorgos Papanastasiou said Monday he would soon visit Israel to hammer out a formal agreement. Once the deal is signed, the pipeline could be completed in 18 months.
It will take 2 ½ years to build a liquefaction plant on Cyprus once investors are secured.
So far, five sizable gas deposits have been discovered off Cyprus’s southern coastline. Israel has 11 such fields: the biggest, named Leviathan, contains an estimated 22 trillion cubic feet (623 billion cubic meters) of gas.
Papanastasiou said he would meet later this month with energy companies licensed to explore for oil and gas inside Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone — including French Total, Italy’s Eni, ExxonMobil and Chevron — to scope out ways of collaborating on projects that would expedite getting their gas discoveries to market.
The minister said Israel agreed to the proposal pitched by the Cypriot government for the pipeline and liquefaction plant, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disclosed on Sunday.
“The eastern Mediterranean has enough [gas] deposits. Most are inside Israel’s exclusive economic zone, but Cyprus has sufficient quantities as well for this project to materialize,” Papanastasiou told reporters.
The minister explained that this project was a truncated version of the EastMed pipeline idea. That proposal – for a 1,900-kilometer (1,300-mile), $6 billion pipeline designed to convey regional gas directly to Europe — has in recent years fallen out of favor.
Instead of a direct pipeline connection to Europe, processed gas from Cyprus could reach international markets by ship.
“When you have liquefied natural gas, it can go in any direction… Europe now needs it more, but markets can also be found in Asia,” said Papanastasiou.
In December, the previous Cypriot government said it was weighing a proposal for a similar plan as Russia’s war in Ukraine compounded an energy crisis, the AP reported.
Papanastasiou said Cypriot and Israeli authorities would need a few more months to negotiate a separate agreement on how much gas from the Cypriot Aphrodite gas field fell within neighboring Israeli waters.
A proposal for a pipeline to convey Cypriot and Egyptian gas to liquefaction plans in Egypt for export remains separate from the Israeli-Cypriot plan, the minister said.