Eastern Mediterranean Offshore Gas: Growth or Conflict?

Israel imports most of its energy: all of its oil and coal and most of its natural gas. In 2009, Israel produced 1.55 billion cubic meters and consumed 3.25 bcm. Like Turkey, it is a net natural gas importer. Israel and Jordan historically relied on Egyptian natural gas imports to satisfy their domestic needs through a 1,200 km pipeline extending from Arish in Egypt to Aqaba in Jordan and Ashkelon in Israel. However, the reliance on Egypt has not been free of uncertainty. Frequent explosions in the Sinai desert often threatened the continuity of gas supply into Israel, the stability of electricity prices, the quality of the replacement oil and the country’s energy security. The Arab’s spring in 2011 came to increase the lack of confidence in the Egyptian imports and hence the Israeli’s government urgent need to develop its own alternative.

The huge natural gas discoveries in the Israeli basin are promising.

Israel might not only become self sufficient in terms of its gas needs for decades but also become a next gas exporter boosting the state’s revenues (Israel expects to start extracting from the offshoreTamar field in 2013, become a net exporter in 2017 and start generating a revenue stream by 2020). The potential implications on European energy security are also not to be neglected. Israeli and Cypriot waters alone are said to contain enough gas – without taking into consideration the oil reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean - to satisfy the European’s market energy needs for almost a decade (at current consumption rates). Diversification of gas supply would ease Europe’s dependence on Russia and contribute in attaining Europe’s strategy to shift to a greater use of natural gas. The concept of EMEC (Eastern Mediterranean Energy Corridor) was born as a result.

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