‘Largest Mediterranean gas field’ found off Egypt coast
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‘Largest Mediterranean gas field’ found off Egypt coast

Italian energy corporation says ‘supergiant’ discovery can fill Egyptian natural gas demand ‘for decades’

In this Tuesday, January 20, 2015 file photo, Italian energy giant Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi poses for a photo prior to the start of a conference, in Rome.  (Andrew Medichini/ AP Photo)
In this Tuesday, January 20, 2015 file photo, Italian energy giant Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi poses for a photo prior to the start of a conference, in Rome. (Andrew Medichini/ AP Photo)

The Italian energy company Eni said Sunday that it has discovered a “supergiant” natural gas field off Egypt, describing it as the “largest-ever” found in the Mediterranean Sea.

The news came a day after Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi met in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the Egyptian leader’s office said.

Eni said the discovery — made in its Zohr prospect “in the deep waters of Egypt” — could hold a potential 30 trillion cubic feet of gas over an area of 100 square kilometers (38.6 square miles).

“Zohr is the largest gas discovery ever made in Egypt and in the Mediterranean Sea and could become one of the world’s largest natural gas finds,” Eni said in a statement. “The discovery, after its full development, will be able to ensure satisfying Egypt’s natural gas demand for decades.”

Descalzi was quoted by Eni as saying that the discovery reconfirms that “Egypt still has great potential” in terms of energy. He said “important synergies with the existing infrastructures can be exploited, allowing us a fast production startup.”

Eni has been in Egypt since 1954 through its subsidiary IEOC. It’s the main hydrocarbon producer in Egypt, with a daily equity production of 200,000 barrels of oil equivalent, the company said

The field, Zohr, was positioned at a depth of 1,450 meters (4,757 feet) and “could become one of the world’s largest natural-gas finds,” Reuters quoted Eni as saying.

Israel’s Leviathan gas field, which is estimated at 16 trillion cubic feet, has so far been thought to be the largest in the Mediterranean. American company Noble Energy and the locally based Delek group have been producing gas from the Tamar field off the Israeli coast since 2013, and have also teamed up to develop Leviathan by 2019.

Tamar’s stakeholders signed a contract earlier this year with a private Egyptian concern to sell as much as five billion cubic meters of gas to Egyptian companies over the next three years. This gas will be flowing through an old pipeline that once transported gas in the opposite direction, from Egypt to Israel.

In March it was reported that the Egypt government may import natural gas from Israel if its price were low enough and if one of the drilling companies dropped a legal action against the Egyptian government, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Tamar natural gas field off the coast of Ashkelon (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
The Tamar natural gas field off the coast of Ashkelon (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Jordan has also signed a $15 billion 15-year letter of intent to import Israeli natural gas.

The Israeli cabinet approved a disputed natural gas deal earlier in August between the government and a US-Israeli energy consortium to develop the offshore gas fields.

The negotiations have been controversial in Israel, with critics fearing regulations would overly favor the companies involved. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the deal would pump billions of shekels into the economy.

JTA contributed to this report.

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