Eastern Mediterranean Gas Could Be Strategic Game-Changer for Europe
A sensitive point to European Union nations and their leaders is their dependence on Russia for 37% of the union’s natural gas supply. Moscow has more than once hinted it might close the taps. But new discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean may change that equation, if significant technical and political hurdles can be overcome.
Plans are under way to deliver gas from the Leviathan field west of Haifa, which Israel claims, to Turkey and Egypt by undersea pipeline. But “the whole area from Cyprus to Lebanon and Egypt may be sitting on even bigger gas fields,” Bloomberg reports. “The United States Geological Survey estimates they could hold more than 340 trillion cubic feet, an amount that would surpass U.S. proven reserves.”
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And Europe beckons, as a continent that is “rich, mostly lacking its own fuels, and desperate to wean itself off energy dependence on Russia,” the news agency notes. “It’s just that getting the gas there will require collaboration between countries with a history of feuding or fighting.”
A first problem will be aligning all the region’s potential producer nations behind a delivery strategy. Gas fields in the region are claimed by Egypt, Israel, and Cyprus, although some are also off the Gaza strip, theoretically part of some future Palestinian state which might lay claim to them. Even so, Bloomberg finds reasons for all the region’s big powers—Turkey, Egypt, and Israel—to collaborate on gas development and delivery.
‘Many analysts see an Israel-Turkey pipeline via Cyprus as the best way to transmit gas to Europe,’ writes correspondent David Wainer. “It could also be piped to LNG plants in Egypt and shipped from there. Israeli and European Union officials have even held talks on an ambitious pipeline route all the way to Greece.”
But that may be ambitious, he cautions. “Hundreds of miles of undersea pipelines will cost billions of dollars and pose a technical challenge for their designers. The region’s geology, especially the massive trench along the seabed from Israel to Turkey, will make pipeline construction tough.
And there are price concerns, as “the global supply glut weighs on the industry’s appetite for expensive projects.”