September 28, 2016 / 5:00 PM / 2 years ago

Greece, Cyprus, Israel look into East Med gas pipeline

(Reuters) - Greece, Cyprus and Israel said on Wednesday they would pursue ways of channeling east Mediterranean gas to Europe via a pipeline to Greece.

With significant finds reported in the past decade, Israel and to a lesser extent Cyprus are thought to be sitting on vast quantities of natural gas wealth, but have yet to come up with concrete plans on how to export it.

Energy ministers of both countries and Greece meeting in Athens on Wednesday said they would continue discussions, with Israel’s energy minister Yuval Steinitz saying the pipeline idea was “promising”.

“...It seems the East Med basin might become the next big thing in natural gas,” Steinitz told journalists.

“In order to enable this we have to think in advance about ways and means of exporting. One of the most promising projects which has been under examination is a natural gas underwater pipeline.”

A feasibility study on the 1,300 km offshore pipeline designed to transport up to 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year is due to be presented next month, Greek officials said.

“What transpired as a very significant issue in these talks is the ability of Greece to become a gateway of natural gas of the eastern Mediterranean to Europe,” said Panos Skourletis, Greece’s energy minister.

Israel has discovered more than 900 bcm of natural gas offshore, with some indications pointing to another 2,200 bcm waiting to be tapped, Steinitz said.

Israel would “re-open its economic waters” in about six weeks, he said, referring to a licensing round for commercial bidding over maritime blocks.

At an energy conference in Athens earlier on Wednesday, Steinitz said Israel wanted more than one export route to channel natural gas discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean to Europe.

Delivery options range from a pipeline linking the three countries, a pipeline to Turkey, or use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facilities in Egypt for shipment to Europe.

“My policy is that at the end of the day we have to have at least two of these pipes in order to have more than one option,” Steinitz said.

Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Mark Potter

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