Experts cast doubt on Israeli plans to export gas and oil to the EU

International energy experts have cast doubt on whether plans by the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) to create a $7.36 billion oil and gas pipeline from Egypt and Israel to Italy are realistic.

The Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum is an agreement between Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Jordan and Palestine, was launched in January 2020, with headquarters in Cairo.

 

Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz sees the forum as a platform for advancing a “very realistic” plan to lay an undersea pipeline connecting Israel and Egypt’s gas fields to Italy. However, international energy experts like Brenda Shaffer have cast doubt on this plan, according to the Times of Israel.

“Currently, commercial prospects for this proposed [EMGF] pipeline are very low,” Shaffer told the Israeli website. This is because Europe is already supplied with natural gas from Russia, with further pipelines planned to open up between Azerbaijan and Europe already under construction. “Italy is not committed to the [EMGF] pipeline anymore and it’s the only important market along that route,” Shaffer said.

Sir Michael Leigh, an academic with 30 years experience as an EU bureaucrat, also wrote for the Breugel think tank that “the different approaches taken by France and Germany could undermine the EU’s mediation effort.” He said that gas from Turkey’s recently discovered Black Sea gas field could start supplying Balkan countries and Italy, replacing Russian gas, by 2025. 

 

Leigh also wrote that the idea of a gas pipeline from Israel and Egypt to Italy “faces technical and financial obstacles and will not happen unless considerable additional quantities are discovered.”

It looks then as if the EMGF is more of a diplomatic alliance by countries with political disputes with Turkey than a serious proposal with realistic prospects of being achieved.

Analysts like Leigh believe that the EU needs a more unified approach to bring Greece, Cyprus and Turkey to the negotiating table over their competing claims to maritime waters, rather than a ‘good cop, bad cop’ approach coming from Germany and France respectively. Leigh says that this approach has not encouraged Turkey to negotiate, but has encouraged a belligerent response from Turkish politicians.

 

There has also been discussions within the Israeli Foreign Ministry about creating an overland pipeline from Saudi Arabia through Israel to allow Gulf countries to export their oil to Europe. However, Brenda Shaffer, who has worked as an energy policy adviser to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and Israeli Energy Ministry, says that this idea is also unrealistic.

“The Gulf exports mainly to Asia. So if it is to be used at all, I think this pipeline would serve only in an emergency, for example if Iran blocked the Persian Gulf. But it doesn’t make sense on a daily commercial basis. It would make the oil too expensive. It could be a boutique pipeline”, Shaffer said.