Arab energy ministers agree on roadmap to supply Lebanon with Egyptian gas

Ahram Online , Wednesday 8 Sep 2021

Egypt hopes to export natural gas to Lebanon as soon as possible, Petroleum Minister Tarek El-Molla said

Energy ministers
A group photo for Energy ministers of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan prior to their joint press conference in Amman on Wednesday 8 September, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum)

The energy ministers of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan agreed on Wednesday on a roadmap to supply Lebanon with Egyptian natural gas to generate electricity amid the ongoing Lebanese energy crisis.

The announcement came during a joint press conference in Jordan in which they agreed to revive the Arab Gas Pipeline to transport Egyptian gas to Jordan, where it will be used to produce additional electricity for the network linking Jordan with Lebanon via Syria.

Egyptian Petroleum Minister Tarek El-Molla stressed that Cairo hopes to export natural gas to Lebanon “as soon as possible.”

“Egypt is working to speed up coordination for the delivery of Egyptian natural gas to Lebanon through Jordan and Syria, given Egypt’s keenness to ease the burdens of the Lebanese people and to contribute to Lebanon's support and stability,” El-Molla said. 

As per the agreement, Egyptian gas will be transported via Jordan and Syria to northern Lebanon to activate gas-operated power plants that have been dysfunctional for 11 years.

Lebanon’s energy crisis has significantly worsened when its two main power plants, which had been generating 40 percent of the country’s energy, were shut down in July due to fuel shortages.

A political vacuum has persisted in Lebanon for a year now, with the country scraping by without a government since Hassan Diab resigned as premier in August of last year.

Lebanon’s caretaker Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar expressed his gratitude to Egypt, Jordan, and Syria for the initiative they took to revive the quadripartite agreement to transport Egyptian gas to Lebanon through Jordan and Syria.

Lebanon hopes it will benefit in the nearest time possible “from the Egyptian gas to feed the 450 megawatt Deir Ammar power plant, which provides more than four hours of electricity daily for the Lebanese people,” Ghajar said.

The meeting comes after Damascus welcomed Lebanon’s plea to extend gas and electricity pipelines from Egypt and Jordan through Syrian lands to Lebanon.

In a statement in August, US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea was cited as affirming ongoing negotiations with the World Bank to provide the funding required to purchase Egyptian gas, develop the electric transport lines, and fix gas pipes.

The Arab ministers also agreed to discuss the status of the Syrian infrastructure for electricity transmission.

The gas pipeline, which passes from Egypt through Jordan to Syria, from Homs in the centre of the country, has been repeatedly bombed by terrorists and armed groups. The section of the pipeline in Syria must now be expanded and maintained to function again.

Syrian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Bassam Tohme said the Arab gas pipeline “is one of the most important joint Arab cooperation projects."

Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt signed the project's memorandum of understanding in 2000. Jordan joined in 2001, Tohme noted.

The Arab gas pipeline was implemented in three phases, the first from Arish to Aqaba with a capacity of 10 billion m3 per year, and the supply of natural gas from Egypt to Jordan began under this phase in July 2003.

The second phase, from Aqaba to the Rehab area in the north of Jordan, saw gas delivered to power plants in the north of the kingdom in February 2006. The pipeline was then extended from Rehab to the Jordanian-Syrian border in March of 2008.

The southern part of the third phase of the pipeline in Syrian territory, extending from the Jordanian-Syrian border to the city of Homs, was completed in July 2008. Egyptian natural gas began to be exported to Lebanon via Jordan in November 2009 and stopped in 2011.

Jordan's Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Hala Zawati said that Wednesday’s meeting was based on the belief that cooperation between the countries sharing the gas pipeline is an “effective and influential step” in supporting strategic projects and promoting common interests, which will positively reflect on economic and social development in these countries.

Egypt’s natural-gas production rose to 7.2 billion cubic feet per day, up from 6.8 billion during fiscal year 2018-19 and 3.8 billion cubic feet in 2012, thanks to discoveries over the last three years, mainly from the giant Zohr Field in the Mediterranean Sea that was discovered in 2015 and is believed to be the largest-ever gas discovery in Egypt and the Mediterranean.

Zohr’s daily production — estimated at 30 trillion cubic feet — exceeded three billion cubic feet in 2020, making up 40 percent of Egypt’s total gas output, according to previous statements by El-Molla.

Egypt plans to use its location on Europe’s doorstep to become a major supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the continent, which is transitioning away from other fossil fuels.

Egypt has the infrastructure for the transport and handling of natural gas, with a main network of 7,000km of pipelines, as well as a distribution network of 31,000km, and 29 gas-treatment plants in addition to two LNG facilities.

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