With Jordanians suffering electricity shortages due to the ongoing influx of
Syrian refugees and Lebanon’s capital city facing occasional 24- hour power
outages, the natural gas finds in the Eastern Mediterranean must be used to
leverage regional cooperation on energy sources, experts stressed at a
conference last week.
“If the Lebanese have gas, if we have gas, if the
Palestinians have gas opposite the Gaza shore, is it smart, is it profitable to
lay three different pipelines?” asked Dr. Oded Eran, a senior research
associate at the Institute for National Security Studies. “In my opinion it is
Eran was speaking at the “Natural Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean
– Economic Impacts and Strategic Implications” conference in Tel Aviv on
Thursday, which was sponsored by the Institute for National Security Studies,
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the Macro Center for Political Studies, the Israeli
European Policy Network and the German Marshall Fund of the United
Academics and government officials from the region and abroad
addressed the potential impact that the area’s gas finds may have on Israel and
its neighbors, as well as the larger international market.
Eran and other
experts advocated a collaborative approach on developing the resources for a
greater benefit – even if such an approach meant crossing traditional
Gas from Israel’s 282 billion cubic meter Tamar reservoir is
already flowing, while its neighboring 535 b.cu.m. Leviathan basin is set
to come online within a few years.
More exploration is occurring in
various blocks of Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone, and the same goes for that
of Cyprus, where substantial finds have already been discovered in the Aphrodite
reservoir. Development of Gaza’s Marine natural gas field has yet to occur, and
exploration in Lebanon’s possible offshore reserves is just
“In my opinion we have an opportunity for shared usage,” Eran
said. “We have opportunity to share the energy resources and
We’re not speaking to those who run the government in
Gaza today, but it does not necessarily have to be direct dialogue.”
shared transport pipeline for these three entities could be the most efficient
and economically beneficial way to transport the gas, and a foreign company
could play a role as a mediator between the various players, according to Eran.
Transmission from Israel’s Leviathan field alone is expected to cost about $4.5
billion, he stressed.
“There are days in Lebanon in which there are only
four hours of electricity,” Eran said, noting that the country’s electricity
capabilities are considered to be the worst in the world by the World Economic
“Lebanon and Israel now share a common interest.”
neighbor of Israel is without its own natural gas but is in critical need for
the resource, according to Eran.
With around a million refugees entering
Jordan from Syria in the past year alone, increased energy and water – which is
dependent on energy – supplies are needed.
“These people are not
returning to the places where they came from very quickly,” Eran said of the
“From a strategic perspective it is in our best
interest for Jordan to be able to sustain itself without these million new
people in the country causing the situation to deteriorate,” he continued.
“Jordan has to be connected to gas production within Israel.”
Israeli government continues to develop an export policy, the country must
consider at what price it truly becomes more worthwhile to export to China and
Europe over its neighbors, Eran explained.
“There is a window of
opportunity that is today and tomorrow, but it is not going to be open for that
long,” he said.
Echoing some of Eran’s opinions, Noble Energy’s Director
of Corporate Affairs Bini Zomer said that exporting to and cooperating with
Israel’s neighbors on gas will be crucial.
“Today Noble Energy and our
partners have the opportunity to strengthen ties by selling gas from Israel to
Jordan, by selling gas to Egypt,” Zomer explained.
possibilities, he added, include selling gas to Turkey’s “vast and growing
market,” as well as partnering with Cyprus to make the area “become a LNG
[liquefied natural gas] hub.” But before any such collaborations can go forward,
the Israeli government must solidify its export policy and ensure stable market
opportunities, he stressed.
Looking at the region’s discoveries from a
more global perspective, Charlies Ellinas, CEO of Cyprus Hydrocarbons,
emphasized a need “to pursue the Eastern Mediterranean gas corridor more
“If we combine Cyprus, Israel and Lebanon’s resources we can
actually supply as much as 50 percent of Europe’s additional gas needs by 2025,”
Leonidas Kioussis, a European Union Commission
representative, agreed that for the next decade or two, until Europe can develop
its renewable energy resources, there will be an increasing need for natural gas
imports. By 2015, he said, “a substantial gap will emerge between demand and
supply.” The EU is therefore looking at the Eastern Mediterranean with
“fascination” and “hope,” albeit also with “uncertainty,” he
Though not one of the conference’s speakers, Gidon Bromberg –
Israeli director for the Friends of the Earth–Middle East NGO – attended
sessions on Thursday morning out of his organization’s interest in developing
regional ties over natural resources, particularly water.
“There are some
real winwins possible beyond the economic windfalls when we look at the issue
from the regional perspective of energy, water, environment and security,”
Bromberg said, noting that the Israeli public must be involved in making such
As far as Jordan goes, Bromberg added that the need to sell
the country natural gas was clear.
“Israel is already an important
supplier of emergency water needs for Jordan,” he said. “The energy needs are
just as critical and it’s in Israel’s interest to indeed look from a regional