A game changer for East Med gas?: Gastech
Ukraine’s invasion of Russia could prove a gamechanger for the development of natural gas reserves in the East Mediterranean, speakers said during a panel discussion at Gastech in Milan on September 6.
There has been a flurry of exploration activity in waters off the coasts of Cyprus, Egypt and Israel over the past decade, yielding a number of significant discoveries. Both Egypt and Israel have managed to bring significant quantities of this gas to market. Israel’s flagship Leviathan field, for example, now supplies nearly 11bn m3/year of gas to the domestic market and Egypt and Jordan, whereas Egypt’s 28bn m3/yr Zohr field has helped the country emerge once more as a net exporter of gas.
Off the coast of Cyprus, however, a number of large gas deposits, including the 130bn-m3 Aphrodite discovery made in 2011, remain stranded, due to a lack of export options. And Israel is eager to carve out new markets for its gas further afield.
In this light, Europe’s big push to sever energy ties with Russia creates new opportunities, the speakers said. To reach the market, Israel and Cyprus have proposed an EastMed pipeline that would bring their gas to Greece. The EU is due to complete a feasibility study on the project later this year. Alternatively, Cyprus has also looked at delivering its gas to Egypt, where it could be liquefied and then exported to Europe.
“We have been talking about a lot of different options over the years and we’re certainly open to discussing those options with the field licensees,” Cypriot energy minister Natasa Pilides said during the discussion. “Now there is an impetus to develop these finds.”
Cyprus is focused on developing discoveries both quickly and effectively, she said, in a way that is profitable to both the field licensees and the country.
Only in late August, Italy’s Eni and France’s TotalEnergies made a major gas discovery at Block 6 off Cyprus’ coast. Eni said preliminary estimates indicated that around 2.5 trillion ft3 of in-place gas had been found, “with significant additional upside that will be investigated by a further exploration well in the area.” Having European partners at Cypriot fields helps facilitate discussions about delivering the gas to Europe, Pilides said.
Cyprus hopes to start producing gas within three or four years, according to the minister, who noted that most of the red tape obstacles to development had been dealt with already.
Also on the panel was Laura Lochman, deputy assistant at the bureau of energy resources at the US Department of State. Lochman said the East Med could serve both as a hub for natural gas and renewables including wind and solar.
The US has traditionally been a strong supporter of delivering East Mediterranean gas to Europe, as a means of reducing the continent’s reliance on Russian energy. Earlier this year, however, the US withdrew its support for the EastMed pipeline, after questioning its economic feasibility. It advocated for power interconnectors to bring both renewable and gas-fired power to Europe from elsewhere in the region. This was before the war, however, and Washington may officially shift its position once more.
Greece’s secretary general for energy and mineral resources, Alexandra Sdoukou, also said she saw “huge opportunity” for further energy development in the region, including off the coast of Greece. Despite the country’s accelerated push to adopt renewables, it has resumed seismic surveys off its own coast to determine prospects for extra gas supply from there, she said.