ATHENS – The energy ministers of Israel, Greece and Cyprus discussed at a tripartite meeting in Jerusalem on April 11 the effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on energy markets and agreed advance specific investment plans in natural gas and electricity projects that will help reduce dependence on Russia.
Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Karine Elharrar, Greek Minister of Environment and Energy Kostas Skrekas and Cypriot Minister of Energy, Trade and Industry Natasha Pilidou also discussed the deepening of strategic tripartite cooperation and flagship projects promoted in the Eastern Mediterranean region, which will enhance energy security and contribute to the diversification of energy sources and routes, including the EuroAsia electricity interconnection. between Israel, Cyprus and Greece, the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Cyprus and the EastMed gas pipeline, the Climate and Climate said the Ministry of Energy.
“The EU’s objectives are to reduce dependence on Russian gas by two-thirds this year and completely before 2030, preferably by 2027. But it will also accelerate the transition to green energy and, as part of this, it will plans to reduce gas use by 30% by 2030 and more than 80% by 2050,” Charles Ellinas, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center, told New Europe on 14 april.
Under these conditions, the Eastern Mediterranean region can help, but only by using existing facilities, i.e. by using the two Egyptian liquefaction plants of Idku, operated by Royal Dutch Shell, and Damietta, operated by Italy’s ENI, at their maximum capacity, about 17 billion cubic meters a year, Ellinas said.
So far this year, LNG exports account for only 60% of that capacity, with nearly 0.7 billion cubic meters going to Europe, he said, adding that the big US company Chevron has already increased its gas exports to Egypt, mainly from Israel’s Leviathan gas field. , to about 10 billion cubic meters and which will help Egypt increase its LNG exports to Europe. In addition, ENI and Egypt have reached a new agreement to allow the export of more LNG to Europe via Italy.
“It is important to note that with the stated intention of the EU to wean itself off gas as we approach 2030 and beyond, there is no support for major new projects to supply Europe. in gas beyond 2030. This makes investment in the EastMed gas pipeline, or any other greenfield gas production and export projects, extremely difficult Without EU support, no investor will be ready to support such projects. We must also remember that the EIB has also stopped investing in fossil fuel projects,” Ellinas said.
“I expect to see new drilling, especially where contractual commitments have already been made, mainly off Cyprus and Egypt,” he said, adding that in Israel, the Greek Energean had already launched a new drilling campaign.
“We could also see more activity in the Ionian Sea,” Ellinas said, explaining that blocks southwest of Crete licensed to US energy giant ExxonMobil, France’s Total and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) are very difficult – water depths exceeding 3,000 meters and difficult, highly fractured geology. “It remains to be seen whether this area receives new attention. Certainly, the Greek government is now taking proactive steps to revive offshore exploration, so that it can reduce its dependence on Russian gas,” he said.
Ellinas argued the fastest and least expensive option to expand East Med’s LNG export capacity by adding new liquefaction trains to existing LNG plants in Egypt. Building new liquefaction facilities in areas lacking existing infrastructure will take time and be expensive, he said, saying investments will only be possible if long-term LNG sales agreements are reached. With the EU intent on weaning itself off gas, that will be a challenge, he said.
Regarding the EuroAsia electricity interconnector, he noted that most of the financing for the Cyprus-Crete link has already been obtained. The rest should be in place in the coming months.
The plan is to begin construction by the end of this year, with operations expected to begin in early 2026, he said, adding that negotiations are underway with Israel regarding the Israel-Cyprus link, but this is still at the intergovernmental stage.
Regarding renewable developments in the Eastern Mediterranean region, Ellinas said that the outlook is good, but due to the energy crisis and the war in Ukraine, priorities have shifted towards security of supply and reducing dependence on Russian gas. “For example, Greece prioritizes reducing dependence on gas imports and reducing the exorbitant cost of energy. As a result, it is now returning to lignite and also expanding its renewable capacity. Turkey is considering nuclear and renewable energy expansion for similar reasons,” Ellinas said, adding, “On the other hand, Egypt is accelerating its plans for the production and export of green hydrogen in cooperation with the EU.