image Photo: Flash90, Koby Gideon (GPO)

Israel holds energy talks with Egypt

Jerusalem and Cairo have agreed to build a pipeline to connect Israel’s offshore Leviathan natural gas field to liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in northern Egypt.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed visiting Egyptian Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Tarek El Molla to Jerusalem yesterday.

“This is an important day, marking our continued cooperation on energy and so many other things,” Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting.

“There is a new era of peace and prosperity for the region with the Abraham Accords. This began of course with the historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel but now it is becoming something that can better the lives of all the people in economic terms and we think that this is a great opportunity for regional cooperation – Egypt, Israel and the other countries,” he said.

Underscoring, “We are an energy hub,” the Israeli leader asserted that, “Together we can supply not only our own needs, but the needs of many other countries.  So it is in this spirit of friendship and cooperation and peace and prosperity that I welcome you to Israel,” said Netanyahu, as he asked that his regards be conveyed to his “dear friend,” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Also participating in the meeting were Israeli National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat, Israeli Energy Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz, Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company Chairman Magdy Galal, Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Amira Oron and Egyptian Ambassador to Israel, Khaled Azmi.

Israeli Energy Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz, who hosted the talks, noted that the visit of his friend, Minister Molla, was of historic importance given that the establishment of the regional gas forum and the export of natural gas to Egypt symbolize the most significant economic cooperation between Egypt and Israel since the peace agreements were signed almost 42 years ago.

Ahead of the meeting, Egyptian Minister Molla thanked Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for the warm reception and invitation to come. “Together with Minister Steinitz, we started together a few years back the expansion of the cooperation in energy which was enhanced by the foundation of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum,” he said, saying that he was “looking forward to our discussions.”

Israel’s Leviathan reserves are located 130 km (80 miles) in the Mediterranean Sea off the country’s coastline. The field already supplies the Israeli domestic market, and exports gas to Jordan and Egypt.

Shareholders including Chevron and Delek Drilling have been exploring options to expand the project, such as a floating LNG facility or a subsea pipeline to link up with LNG terminals in Egypt being run at less than optimal capacity.

In a later announcement, Minister Steinitz said the two governments were moving ahead with the pipeline plan and were working on a formal agreement.

“The two ministers agreed on the construction of (an) offshore gas pipeline from the Leviathan gas field to the liquefaction facilities in Egypt, in order to increase the gas exports to Europe through the liquefaction facilities in Egypt,” Steinitz’s office said in a statement.

The Palestinians also signed an agreement with Egypt’s Energy Minister during a visit to the West Bank.

Molla signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for Egypt to help develop the Gaza Marine field with the Palestine Investment Fund, the sovereign fund of the Palestinian Authority and the Consolidated Contractors Company.

Gaza Marine is located some 30 km (19 miles) off the Islamist Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave’s coast. It is estimated to hold over 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.