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Israel mulls European request for gas as Russia threatens to cut EU supplies

Sources in Energy Ministry confirm request from Europe’s Energy Commissioner, say decision tied to the new Karish site coming online

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

This undated file photo shows a Qatari liquid natural gas (LNG) tanker ship being loaded up with LNG at Raslaffans Sea Port, northern Qatar. With gas reserves dropping and concerns a war could interrupt flows from Russia, the focus now is getting gas from the United States, Qatar, Algeria and elsewhere until renewables catch up. (AP Photo, File)
This undated file photo shows a Qatari liquid natural gas (LNG) tanker ship being loaded up with LNG at Raslaffans Sea Port, northern Qatar. With gas reserves dropping and concerns a war could interrupt flows from Russia, the focus now is getting gas from the United States, Qatar, Algeria and elsewhere until renewables catch up. (AP Photo, File)

Senior sources at the Energy Ministry confirmed on Tuesday that the European Energy Commissioner has asked Israel whether it could supply liquified natural gas to help the continent wean itself off Russian supplies.

Energy Ministry officials told the Times of Israel that the ministry is considering the European request but added that the country’s ability to help would depend on the Karish gas field coming online.

This is expected in the fall. Earlier this week, the field was connected to the country’s national gas line.

The Chevron company, which operates Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan gas fields in the Mediterranean, would not comment on providing gas to Europe.

But early on Tuesday, Fox News quoted Chevron CEO Michael Wirth as telling a conference in Houston that a plan for an eastern Mediterranean natural gas pipeline connecting Israel, Greece, and Cyprus to Italy and on to Europe could be taken out of mothballs.

The eventual aim of that pipeline — from which the US withdrew support earlier this year — was to supply Europe with 10 percent of its gas.

Last year, the European Union imported around 155 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas from Russia, amounting to 45% of all its gas imports, according to the International Energy Agency.

On Monday, the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Alexander Novak, threatened to respond to rising sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine by cutting gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Last month, Germany halted work on the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.

On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden announced that the country would be banning imports of Russian oil and gas. The European Commission issued plans to cut EU dependence on Russian gas by two-thirds this year and completely before 2030. The UK said it would phase out Russian oil imports by year’s end.

View of the Israeli Leviathan gas field gas processing rig as it is seen from Dor Habonim Beach Nature Reserve, on January 1, 2020. (Flash90)

Israel currently has two working natural gas fields, Tamar and the bigger and newer Leviathan.

Unlike Tamar and Leviathan, which are serviced by fixed offshore production platforms, Karish will use a floating production, storage, and offloading vessel.

Israel has no facilities for liquifying natural gas. The nearest is in Egypt.

Earlier this month, the International Energy Agency issued a 10-point plan to reduce the EU’s reliance on Russian gas.

Among other things, this proposed increasing imports of liquified natural gas (LNG) by 20 billion cubic meters over the coming year. LNG is transported by ship.

Gas import contracts with the Russian company Gazprom, accounting for more than 15 bcm per year and 12% of Europe’s gas imports from the company, will expire at the end of the year, according to the IEA. Contracts with Gazprom covering close to 40 bcm per year are due to expire by the end of this decade.

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