According to British news website www.theguardian.com, the Cyprus-centred project could be the world’s longest pipeline if built, stretching up to 1,530km, and passing through depths of up to 3,000m.
The Israeli energy minister, Silvan Shalom, raised the issue at a ministerial conference in Rome last week and held talks on the margins with the EU’s vice president for energy union, Maros Sefkovic. Israel, Greece and Cyprus expect a formal meeting with Sefkovic to discuss ways of actualising the project, on the fringes of an EU energy ministers’ summit on December 9.
With energy diversification and security both rising up Europe’s political agenda, “it looks like the stars have aligned in one position now and that might be good for our timing,” Guy Feldman, an advisor to Shalom told the Guardian. But the Palestinian Authority cautioned the EU against signing any contract until territorial gas disputes with neighbouring countries such as Lebanon were resolved.
“The objective of energy security starts with a clear cut boundary of all the gas fields,” said the PA’s energy minister, Omar Kettaneh. “Otherwise instead of being a source of security the pipeline will be a source of conflict.”
In 2010, the US Geological Survey (USGS) estimated that the Levant Basin could hold more than 3,455bcm of gas, which is comparable to Iraq’s reserves. But until now, political instability has hindered its exploitation, with Israeli and Cypriot claims to overlapping gas fields contested by Lebanon and Turkey, respectively. In 2012, Israel, Cyprus and Greece signed a deal to promote exports of their gas to the EU through an eastern Mediterranean corridor. The planned offshore pipeline, which diplomats say could transport between 8-15bcm of natural gas annually, has already been selected for “project of common interest” status by the EU.
This potentially gives it access to a €5.85 billion fund, and preferential treatment from multilateral banks. A commission timeline estimates that the pipeline could begin pumping gas by 2020, four years after the Leviathan field, which contains around 450bcm of gas comes online.