PM, in Israel, seeking European gas gateway role for Greece

Energy matters are among the top items on the agenda of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s two-day official visit to Israel, beginning today, to include a series of meetings with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, and the opposition leader Isaac Herzog.

The country’s Leviathan gas field, off the coast of Israel, now set to be exploited after the country’s competition committee had initially blocked the process, brings the country’s export prospects back to the negotiating table and could establish Israel as a major energy player in the Middle East.

Tsipras will seek to establish Greece as a gateway to southeast Europe for Israeli gas exports, through existing and planned infrastructure, such as an LNG terminal in northern Greece and new pipelines.

Israel has shown a preference for LNG development, a financially stronger plan, despite calls from various local officials for the re-establishment of Israeli-Turkish ties and development of a pipeline route running through Turkey. This latter option is not prefered by the Netanyahu government.

In wider regional developments, it was announced just days ago that British Gas (BG) had acquired a 35 percent holding of a Cypriot offshore area, Block 12, which includes the major Aphrodite gas discovery. US company Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek are also involved in this venture.

The development, which still needs to be approved by regulatory authorities, promises to pave the way for supply of Cypriot natural gas, and, possibly Israeli natural gas as well, to Egypt’s Idku LNG terminal station for liquefaction. British Gas is a shareholder at the Egyptian station with rights of up to three million tons per annum (mtpa).