Greece, Israel and Cyprus will explore the possibility of building a natural gas pipeline to Europe, tapping huge gas reserves discovered in the eastern Mediterranean in recent years, leaders of the three countries said on Thursday.
Israel has reported some of the largest gas finds in the past decade and Cyprus confirmed a discovery in 2011, making both potential exporters.
Groups of specialists will be appointed to assess the pipeline idea, and plans are proceeding to create a subsea electricity cable to Europe, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
“These are two practical things we are moving on,” Netanyahu said, flanked by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz has said experts estimate there are 10,000 to 15,000 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas in the east Mediterranean basin which includes Israel, Egypt and Cyprus — enough to supply domestic needs as well as Europe.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Steinitz told reporters on the plane en route to Nicosia that Israel wanted to have the ability to export the gas both through Greece and Turkey.
A pipeline to Turkey is much cheaper than through Cyprus and Greece.
The 1,500-kilometre-long EuroAsia Interconnector would send up to 2,000 megawatts (MW) of power generated from the gas fields to Europe via Israel, Cyprus and Greece.
Project managers say a 329-kilometre-long first phase will link Cyprus and Israel.
The European Union includes the plans among its “projects of common interest”, which are designed to bolster energy security and improve European market integration.
However, not all experts are convinced a subsea electricity cable to Europe is a genuine possibility.
“It’s not feasible for commercial and political reasons,” said Michael Leigh, a former director-general in the European Commission and now a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, specialising in East Mediterranean gas.
“It’s pie in the sky.”
On Sunday, an Israeli exploration group announced it had discovered signs of another large natural gas field off Israel’s coast.
A group lead by Isramco Negev and Modiin Energy said a resource report showed there could be an estimated 8.9 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas at the Daniel East and West fields.