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Israel starts exporting natural gas to Egypt

In a major development that marks a new era in the Middle East energy industry, Israel has begun exporting natural gas to Egypt, according to a joint statement issued by the two countries this week.

Israel will pump an estimated $19.5 billion worth of gas — 85 billion cubic meters — from its two offshore fields, Tamar and Leviathan over 15 years. The gas will be funneled via a subsea pipeline connecting Israel and Egypt.

“The export of gas to Egypt, from Leviathan and Tamar, is the most significant economic cooperation between Israel and Egypt since the signing of the peace treaty between the countries,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said last month.

Israel and Egypt signed a historic peace treaty in 1979.

Yossi Abu, CEO of Delek Drilling, one of the partners in Leviathan and Tamar, said the arrangement “marks a new era in the Middle East energy sector.”

The energy ministries of Jerusalem and Cairo issued a rare joint statement on Wednesday morning calling move “an important development that will serve the economic interests of both sides.”

“The step will both enable Israel to export some of its natural gas to the region via Egypt’s gas liquefaction plants, and promote Egypt’s status as a regional gas hub,” the statement said.

During a meeting of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF), the energy ministers of Israel, Egypt, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are expected to approve turning the EMGF into a regional organization, according to the statement.

The bonanza of natural gas found in the Mediterranean Sea in both of these fields has changed the game for Israel which has long relied on imports of natural resources. Leviathan is estimated to hold 22 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, and a potential half a million barrels of oil while Tamar has half that amount. Two other smaller fields are set to start production in 2021.

Leviathan has thrust Israel onto the scene as a regional player in the energy industry, according to Yael Ravia-Zadok, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Economic Diplomacy Division. She called it “energy diplomacy” and it has become an integral part of the regional agenda, she said.

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