Egypt gas pipeline to Jordan, Israel sabotaged for sixth time

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CAIRO/AL-ARISH: An explosion of a gas pipeline at the Egyptian National Grid in Sinai early Tuesday halted the supply of natural gas to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Sinai consumers, according to an official statement by Ampal-American Israel Corporation.


The proportion of the damage and estimated repair time is not yet clear at this point, the company said in a statement on their official website.

“Neither [East Mediterranean Gas Co.] EMG’s site nor EMG’s pipeline were damaged as the affected GASCO’s pipeline is not a part of the EMG pipeline system,” Ampal said.

Ampal said that EMG, in which it has a 12.5 percent interest, had advised it of the blast, which was alleged to be terror attack.

The explosion took place exactly 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) west of EMG’s location at Al-Arish in Sinai at around 2 am, according to Ampal.

According to Egypt state news, the explosion was contained.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the explosion was a result of remote detonation, a security official said. The source, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said an undetonated mine was also found on site.

At least three gunmen in a van opened fire on a gas installation before the explosion hit the pipeline, witnesses said. They didn’t however enter the station.

No one has been arrested so far, the source added. Three injuries were reported without details.
Gas supply to Al-Arish was also cut. The flames resulting from the explosion led to damages in nearby homes and huts.

The pipeline is owned and controlled by the Egyptian gas transport company, GASCO, a subsidiary of EGAS, the Egyptian national gas company that also supplies gas to EMG.

This is the sixth explosion on the gas pipeline, which serves Israel and Jordan.

“Since the terror attack on GASCO’s pipeline on July 12, 2011, gas supply from EGAS to EMG, and therefore, to EMG’s Israeli customers, has not resumed,” the company said.

Israel receives about 40 percent of its gas from Egypt. Currently, EMG provides 45 percent of Israel’s gas needs for electric utility.

Last month, Egypt’s army and police officials pointed out that they were cracking down on terror attacks in the area.

Since the January 25 uprising that ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February, attackers, emboldened by the security vacuum in North Sinai, have targeted the gas pipeline several times disrupting the supply of gas to Jordan and Israel.

The pipeline has been attacked five times over the past seven months. There was an attempted attack on July 30 that failed. This month’s attack is the sixth.

On May 31, Ampal-American Israel Corporation and other EMG International owners, including American investors, officially sought international arbitration against Egypt.

“The process was launched when EMG and other international shareholders gave formal notice to the relevant Egyptian ministries demanding consultations with regard to breaches under the Gas Supply and Purchase Agreement (the "Gas Contract") between EMG and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (together the "Seller"), which include the failure to deliver the contractually required amounts of gas to EMG,” said Ampal.

Ampal alone reported $9.7 million in losses for the quarter ending June 30 due to the impairments in EMG’s pipeline.

The pipeline that serves Israel reaches from Al-Arish to Ashkelon is about 100 kilometers long. Overall, the pipeline, which serves Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, is about 1,200 kilometers-long (750 miles).

EMG constructed the pipeline in 2008 from Al-Arish in Sinai to Ashkelon in Israel, at a cost of $460 million.

Under a 20-year contract, Egypt has been exporting gas to Israel since 2005.

Last month, Khaled Toukan, Jordan’s energy minister announced that the country would sign a new gas deal with Jordan, adjusting the current figures, according to a Reuters report quoting Egyptian state news agency MENA.

Toukan declined to reveal any figures regarding the new deal.

Export of Egyptian gas to Jordan was cut by 27 percent last year. After the five attacks this year, that figure doubled as exports fell 54 percent. –Additional reporting by Hatem El-Buluk in Al-Arish and agencies.


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