Israel, Lebanon and Egypt edge closer to new offshore gas projects in Mediterranean

Israel has green-lit production from the Karish field following a deal with Lebanon, as Egypt eyes resources near Gaza

London-based Energean's ship at the Karish natural gas field offshore Israel in the East Mediterranean. Photo: Reuters
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Israel on Tuesday gave London-listed Energean permission to begin producing gas from Karish, an offshore field at the heart of a maritime border agreement about to be signed with Lebanon.

A statement from the energy ministry said they “gave Energean the approval to begin producing natural gas from Karish”.

A spokeswoman for Energean stressed to AFP that while they had received the permit, they had not yet begun producing gas from Karish.

An energy ministry spokeswoman told AFP Tuesday's permit was the last formality Energean needed before beginning production.

Israel and Lebanon, which are technically at war, agreed to terms earlier this month on the deal which will be approved by the Israeli government on Thursday, with the signing due to take place later that day in Lebanese town Naqura, just north of Israel.

Under the deal, Israel has full rights over the Karish gasfield.

Lebanon will have full rights to operate and explore the so-called Qana or Sidon reservoir, parts of which fall in Israel's territorial waters, with Israel receiving some revenue.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who is facing an election on November 1 and refused to bring the agreement before parliament for approval, commended the energy ministry's green light.

“The production of natural gas from the Karish platform bolsters Israel's energy security, enhances our stature as energy exporters, strengthens Israel's economy and helps in grappling with the global energy crisis,” he said in a statement.

Karish will join Tamar and Leviathan to become Israel's third offshore rig providing natural gas, with each connected to the mainland by separate infrastructure.

Gas exports to Jordan and Egypt would be able to increase, the energy ministry said, “and from there to additional countries in Europe that need natural gas sources in light of the global energy crisis”.

Egypt to develop Gaza Marine gasfield

Meanwhile, Egypt's petroleum minister confirmed on Tuesday a framework agreement had been reached to develop the Gaza Marine gasfield off the coast of Gaza and that talks were under way to conclude a final deal.

Egypt's state-owned gas company EGAS is aiming to take over development of the field, Egyptian and Palestinian officials told Reuters earlier this month. If concluded, the agreement would be a boost for the cash-strapped Palestinian economy.

“The details of it have not been finalised but only the general framework. We started talking with Israel about it two years ago,” Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla told Reuters on Tuesday.

“A plan to execute that agreement will be announced at an appropriate time,” Mr El Molla added.

A Palestinian official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters an agreement on “basic conditions” had been reached but further talks on the technicalities and final approvals from the Palestinian Authority would be needed.

Israeli officials also told Reuters that Israel's energy minister had decided to hold off on a final deal until after Israel's upcoming elections in November.

Cairo has also been in contact with officials from the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which has run Gaza since 2007, over the gasfield, according to a Palestinian official.

Egypt has played a key role in mediating ceasefire agreements between Israel, Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza for decades.

While Egypt and Israel have been producing gas in the Eastern Mediterranean for years, the Gaza Marine field, about 30 kilometres off the Gaza coast, has remained undeveloped due to political disputes and conflict with Israel, as well as economic factors.

Gaza Marine is estimated to hold over 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, much more than is needed to power the Palestinian territories and some of which could potentially be exported.

Updated: October 26, 2022, 9:00 AM
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