MESOP MIDEAST WATCH: Seeking independence from Russian gas, European Union turns to Israel

EU and Israeli officials are said to be holding advanced negotiations over the sale of natural gas. If finalized, Israel could begin exporting gs to Europe as early as next winter.

By  Ariel Kahana ISRAEL HAYOM 22.5.22 –

Israel and the European Union are holding advanced negotiations over the sale of Israeli gas to Europe, Israel Hayom has learned.

The deal will allow the bloc, which has sought independence from Russian gas since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion in Ukraine, to import gas into Europe through Egypt. Expected to be signed in the summer, the import of Israeli gas can begin as early as winter.

Approximately 40% of Europe’s consumption is made up of Russian gas. As part of efforts to diversify its resources, the EU contacted Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar and her Egyptian counterpart Tarek El-Molla. Elharrar had previously met with European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson, which is when the urgency of the matter of natural gas was first discussed.

In talks, European officials have made it clear that unless they find alternative sources of gas, they would turn to coal mining again, despite its environmental impact. Israel, for its part, demanded the deal be long-term, rather than a quick fix to the crisis.

Assuming all goes as planned, “Israel will sell gas to Europe already in the winter,” one source involved in the matter told Israel Hayom, stressing the move is “a dramatic shift in the Israeli-European ties.”

“Israel is doing its utmost to help Europe in its time of need, which has diplomatic significance,” he said.

As part of the deal, Israel will supply Europe with a relative small amount of gas – between 1 and 2 billion cubic meters – in the upcoming winter, as Egypt’s pipeline expansion protect is ongoing. The goal is to double the amount within a few years.

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Director-General of the Energy Ministry Lior Schillat said the agreement would eventually allow gas companies to sign commercial deals as well.

He also explained why Israel does not have the technical capability to export gas to Europe directly.

“There is no direct pipeline between Israel and Europe … [But] there is a pipeline between Israel and Egypt, as part of a previous agreement to increase supplies to Egypt, which is now being expanded.”

Therefore, “the most efficient way is to send gas to Egypt, which has two liquefaction plants. From Egypt it will be shipped in liquid form to Europe, where it will be changed back to gas,” he said.