New delay in resuming Egypt gas flow to Israel

AFP, Tuesday 15 Mar 2011

Detected leakage postpones gas flow to Israel after 5 February attack on pipeline

Shipments of Egyptian gas to Israel, due to resume this week after being cut off after a February 5 attack on a Sinai pipeline, have been delayed again, one of the pipeline's owners said Tuesday.

Ampal-American Israel Corporation, which holds 12.5 percent of the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG) that owns the pipeline between the two neighbours, blamed the new delay on a leak.

"While resuming commercial gas supply by GASCO to EMG and its Israel customers, a leak was discovered," the company said in a statement. GASCO is the Egyptian National Gas Company.

"The GASCO field team is currently working to repair the leak in its system. Consequently, commercial gas supply to Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria as well as to major Egyptian cement industries and power gas consumers in the Sinai Peninsula, awaits completion of the repair."

Gas imports to Israel were halted as a precaution on February 5 following an attack on a pipeline supplying Jordan. They had been due to resume in mid-February but were delayed over a hold-up in repair work on a GASCO pipeline, Ampal-American Israel said at the time.

It remains unclear who carried out the February attack, which coincided with an unprecedented wave of mass protests across Egypt which led to the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak.

Since the attacks, Israel has permitted the use of fuel oil to run power stations to avoid blackouts and a drop in the production of electricity.

Some Israeli media suggested the new Egyptian authorities were delaying the supply of gas to Israel for political rather than technical reasons.

The already-controversial supply of gas to Israel ran into further controversy earlier this month after a Kuwaiti newspaper reported that Mubarak's two sons had received a hefty commission from Israel to back the deal.

Egypt supplies about 40 percent of Israel's natural gas which is used to produce electricity. In December, four Israeli firms signed 20-year contracts worth up to $10 billion (7.4 billion euros) to import Egyptian gas.

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