THESSALONIKI, Greece (Reuters) - Greece, Israel and Cyprus said on Thursday they would speed up plans for the development of a pipeline channeling gas to Europe from newly discovered east Mediterranean reserves.
European governments and Israel agreed in April to move forward with a Mediterranean pipeline project to carry natural gas from Israel to Europe, setting a target date of 2025 for completion.
Europe is keen to diversify its energy supplies, and Greece wants to promote itself as a hub for the transit of gas from the eastern Mediterranean to the continent.
“We agreed to expedite our joint actions concerning our agreement on the construction of a large project which will offer new prospects of economic cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told a news conference in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.
He was flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Nicos Anastasiades, the president of Cyprus.
The planned 2,000-km (1,250-mile) pipeline aims to link gas fields off the coasts of Israel and Cyprus with Greece and possibly Italy, at a cost of up to 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion).
Netanyahu said the so-called East-Med Pipeline “would be a revolution”.
“We’ve had preliminary studies of it and it seems promising and we’re going to look further into it. It’s something we’re very excited about,” he said.
Israel and to a lesser extent Cyprus are thought to be sitting on vast quantities of natural gas wealth given the significant finds reported in the past decade.
Israel has discovered more than 900 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas offshore, with some studies pointing to another 2,200 bcm waiting to be tapped. Along with the European market, it is exploring options to export to Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.
Cyprus’ Aphrodite gas field holds an additional 128 bcm, and Cypriot waters are expected to hold more reserves.
Delivery options have included a pipeline linking the three countries, a pipeline to Turkey, and use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage in Egypt for shipment to Europe.
The three leaders said they would also pursue the development of an electricity cable linking their countries.
The EuroAsia Interconnector will carry electricity generated in Israel and sent via Cyprus, the Greek island of Crete and mainland Greece to European grids.
A Greek government official said Greece had proposed adding fiber optic cables estimated to boost the cost by 10 percent. It has secured funding of 1.5 billion euros from the European Union and viability studies have been completed.
“It’s in a mature phase and we must now move on to the establishment of a consortium of investors and its implementation,” the official said.
Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Dale Hudson