Is­raeli gas im­ports sus­pen­sion law­suit: An­other stum­bling block to Egypt’s en­ergy hub as­pi­ra­tions

The Daily News Egypt - - Business - By Mohamed Samir

Cairo Ad­min­is­tra­tive Court re­ferred on Tues­day a law­suit de­mand­ing the sus­pen­sion of the ap­proval of nat­u­ral gas im­ports from Is­rael, for vi­o­lat­ing the Egyptian Con­sti­tu­tion and Law No 196 of 2017 reg­u­lat­ing the gas mar­ket to the State Coun­cil Com­mis­sioner Au­thor­ity (SCCA).

The law­suit al­leges that al­low­ing nat­u­ral gas im­ports from the “Zion­ist en­tity” en­dan­gers na­tional se­cu­rity, car­ries a neg­a­tive im­pact on the Egyptian econ­omy, and threat­ens so­ci­etal peace, which re­jects nor­mal­i­sa­tion Is­rael.

The law­suit added that Is­rael stole Egyptian oil and gas dur­ing its oc­cu­pa­tion of Si­nai. UN Res­o­lu­tion 3175 obliges Is­rael to com­pen­sate Egypt for ex­ploit­ing its nat­u­ral re­sources, more than 70bn cu­bic feet of nat­u­ral gas. “In­stead of im­port­ing gas from Is­rael, the Egyptian govern­ment should have claimed its rights for its stolen re­sources,” the law­suit stated.

Ac­cord­ing Ter­rence Smith in The New York Times in Jan­uary 1975, the cap­tured Egyptian wells in the Si­nai Penin­sula, which Is­rael be­gan to ex­ploit im­me­di­ately af­ter seiz­ing the ter­ri­tory, pro­vided 50-60% of Is­rael’s an­nual re­quire­ments, the fields and the wells in the Gulf of Suez pro­duced 75,000 to 85,000 bar­rels a day, ac­cord­ing to Is­raeli of­fi­cials.

Fol­low­ing a se­ries of large-scale gas dis­cov­er­ies in the Eastern Mediter­ranean, the re­gion has be­come a hotspot of in­ter­na­tional en­ergy dis­cus­sions. The re­gion has con­firmed re­serves of about 2tn cu­bic me­tres of gas, plenty of ex­port and re­gional co­op­er­a­tion sce­nar­ios are be­ing stud­ied, in all of which Egypt holds the keys to the Eastern Mediter­ranean’s gas fu­ture. It has the abil­ity to pro­ceed alone by ex­port­ing its ex­pected gas sur­plus via its ex­ist­ing ex­port­ing in­fra­struc­ture.

In Fe­bru­ary, two 10-year agree­ments, worth $15bn, to ex­port Is­raeli nat­u­ral gas to Egypt were signed.The agree­ments be­tween Delek Drilling and No­ble En­ergy—the op­er­a­tors of Is­rael’s largest nat­u­ral gas fields Tamar and Le­viathan—and the Egyptian com­pany Dol­phi­nus Hold­ings, will sup­ply Egypt with 7bn cu­bic me­tres of gas an­nu­ally. Half of the amount to be sup­plied an­nu­ally will orig­i­nate from Tamar field, which is al­ready op­er­at­ing, and the other half will come from Le­viathan field, which is planned to be­gin op­er­at­ing next year.

Many en­ergy ex­perts be­lieve that the agree­ment was a sign that Egypt is be­com­ing a real gas hub, and that the nat­u­ral gas from the Egyptian, Is­raeli, and Cypriot fields will be di­rected to Egyptian LNG plants in Idku and Dami­etta for re-ex­port­ing.

Also in Fe­bru­ary, a pre­lim­i­nary agree­ment be­tween Egypt and Cyprus was reached to ex­tend nat­u­ral gas trans­mis­sion pipe­lines from Cypriot fields to Egyptian nat­u­ral gas liq­ue­fac­tion plants.

Osama Ka­mal, an oil and gas in­dus­try ex­pert and for­mer petroleum min­is­ter, said that both Cyprus and Is­rael need Egypt, as it is pro­vides a key av­enue for ex­port­ing their nat­u­ral gas.

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