Israel starts pumping natural gas to neighboring Egypt

'A holiday for the state of Israel': Israeli gas begins pumping to Egypt

Israel began exporting natural gas to Egypt on Wednesday, fulfilling a deal expected to be worth $19.5bn, years in the making.

In Tel Aviv, stocks in Ratio Oil Exploration 1992 LP, which has a 15% stake in Israel's biggest gas field, were up 2.7% by 1:14 p.m. Delek Drilling, a partner in the country's two largest reservoirs, climbed 2.4%.

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said that the Sinai Peninsula has sufficient capacity for current volumes; however, the option of building a second pipeline will be considered if demand from Egypt grows. In October, they agreed to increase gas flows by nearly 35% more than the figure set in 2018, when they inked a 10-year deal valued at $15 billion.

Jerusalem's and Cairo's energy ministries issued the rare joint statement on Wednesday morning, calling the move "an important development that will serve the economic interests of both sides".

The Leviathan and Tamar gas fields are expected to make Israel energy independent, and the pipeline to Egypt is only one of several such projects, with Israel recently concluding an agreement to build another pipeline to export gas to Cyprus and Greece - the so-called "East-Med" project. Israel already exports natural gas to neighboring Jordan.

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The deal is also a lifeline for Israel's gas industry, which has had trouble securing foreign investment for the aptly-named Leviathan since its discovery in 2010.

Israeli officials have called the export of gas to Egypt the most significant deal to emerge since the countries signed a historic peace treaty in 1979. It holds some 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, half of the amount held in Leviathan.

The announcement closely follows the approval from Minister Steinitz for the start of production at the giant Leviathan field. They also provide a stable source of locally produced energy from four different fields, leading to a more secure supply that is enough to feed all of Israel's electricity needs for decades.

The North African state hopes to become a regional gas hub.

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