Cyprus is very close to reaching an agreement with the countries involved in the construction of the East Med pipeline to transfer natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe, a government source said on Sunday.
The government source was commenting on reports in The Times of Israel this week, which, citing reports of Hadashot TV, said that Greece, Italy, and Cyprus have reached an agreement with Israel to lay a pipeline connecting the latter’s gas reserves to the three countries to supply gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe.
The media outlet recalled that the European Union agreed to invest $100 million in a feasibility study for the project – estimated at over $7 bn – before the agreement was reached “over the laying of the longest and deepest underwater gas pipeline in the world.”
As part of the agreement, Israel and Cyprus will be granted preference over other countries in exporting gas to the European market, according to the report.
The EastMed Pipeline Project is to start about 170 kilometres off Cyprus’ southern coast and stretch for 2,200 kilometres to reach Otranto, Italy, via Crete and the Greek mainland. The pipeline will have the capacity to carry up to 20 bn cubic meters of natural gas per year.
Work on the five-year project is expected to begin within a few months, reports said.
Cyprus, Italy, Greece and Israel agreed last year to back the construction of a gas pipeline from newly discovered fields in the eastern Mediterranean to Europe. The four countries also said they would cooperate to facilitate studies, permits, construction and operation of the project, with a view to signing an Intergovernmental Agreement on the project within 2018.
A government source told state broadcaster CyBC on Sunday that an agreement is expected to be reached very soon among all countries involved in the project. After the deal is struck, the source said, it will take about five weeks for its provisions to be examined by the European Commission.
Nicosia, the source said, is looking into all possible alternatives, as a lot will depend on the results of the drilling of ExxonMobil that is currently underway, in Cyprus’ offshore block 10, within the island’s exclusive economic zone.
The Stena Icemax drillship leased by ExxonMobil started drilling in the Delphine location in block 10 last week. The drilling is expected to last around two months.
The rig will then move to either ‘Glafkos’ or ‘Anthea’ targets. The choice of the second target will depend, in part, on the findings of the first drilling in Delphine.
Isreali Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz commented on the deal to Hadashot TV, saying that it could temper Arab influence in Europe.
“For decades, we have complained about the Arab influence in Europe due to oil and gas. The export of gas to Europe will moderate this influence to a certain extent and be a counterweight to Arab power,” he said.
Last December, Steinitz said a study on the project showed that the link was feasible, even though it presents technical challenges due to the depths involved and has an estimated cost of €6.2 bn ($7.36 bn).