Israel pitches ‘massive’ natural gas pipeline plan to Europe
Silvan Shalom proposes multi-million euro idea to fellow energy ministers in Rome; project would reduce EU dependence on Russia
Israel has proposed that EU countries invest in a multi-billion euro pipeline to carry its natural gas to the continent, noting that the supply from Israel would reduce Europe’s current dependence on natural gas from Russia.
A proposal for the “massive” project was introduced by Israel’s Energy Minister Silvan Shalom to energy ministers from Euro-Mediterranean countries who met in Rome earlier this week, Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Thursday.
It said the project would require a multi-billion euro investment from Europe to build a pipeline from Israel’s Mediterranean cost to Cyprus, from where the gas would be carried on to Greece and Italy.
The TV report said Cyprus, Greece and Italy were all supportive of the idea, and that Israel would make a formal presentation of the project to European representatives in Brussels in three weeks’ time.
It would be cheaper for Europe to work on a supply route with Egypt, but this could expose the Europeans to instability because of the unpredictable political developments in Egypt, the report noted. Similarly, a pipeline from Israel to Turkey would be less expensive, but bilateral relations rule this out so long as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a prominent critic of Israel, holds power there.
In September, Israel signed a deal to supply Jordan with $15 billion worth of natural gas from its Leviathan energy field over 15 years. The deal was Israel’s largest collaboration with Jordan to date, and will make Israel its chief supplier. Representatives of the gas companies involved, Delek Group Ltd. and Nobel Energy Inc., were in Jordan to sign the agreement.
Shalom hailed that deal as “a historic act that will strengthen the economic and diplomatic ties between Israel and Jordan.” Thursday’s report underlined that Israel hopes a natural gas partnership with Europe would also boost diplomatic relations with the EU, which are strained by major differences over policy on the Palestinians.
Israel decided last year to export 40 percent of the country’s offshore gas finds, and has since also signed a 20-year, $1.2 billion deal with a Palestinian firm. In June it signed a letter of intent to supply energy to an Egyptian facility as well.
Israel began pumping natural gas in March 2013 from the Tamar deposit — discovered in 2009 and located some 90 kilometers (56 miles) west of Haifa — which holds an estimated 8.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
In addition to Tamar, in 2010 an even larger deposit, Leviathan — which boasts an estimated 16-18 trillion cubic feet of gas — was discovered 130 kilometers (81 miles) west of Haifa. It is expected to become operational in 2016.