Europe, which is experiencing the repercussions of the Russian-Ukrainian War, is pinning high hopes on gas in the eastern Mediterranean to help save it from an energy crisis that is likely to worsen by winter.
In the past years, Egypt succeeded in occupying a distinguished position in the field of producing, liquefying, and exporting gas. Therefore, the Cairo meeting that was held last week on the side-lines of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) that included Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, France, Palestine, and Jordan, in addition to the US, the EU, and the World Bank as observers, and the EU Energy and Climate Commission stressed that the solution to the gas crisis in Europe, whether now or in the distant future, must be solved through this forum and its mechanisms.
This is if Europeans want to secure their needs from this important resource, which is integral to life there.
The vacuum created by Russian conditions for the supply of gas to Europe created a good and perhaps historic opportunity for Egyptian gas and its logistical facilities to fill this void so that Egypt would turn into a safe and stable source of gas, at least for the countries of southern Europe.
Egypt’s endeavours to become a regional energy centre and achieve an export boom have now become a reality. Cairo is now able to lead the energy file and coordinate effectively with the member states of the EMGF to meet the growing European demand for gas.
A recent study released by the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) titled ‘Developments of liquefied natural gas and hydrogen during the fourth quarter (4Q) of 2021’ stated that Egypt’s exports of liquefied natural gas increased by 109% in the 4Q 2021 compared to the same period in the previous year.
This boom made Egypt the country with the highest growth in the volume of gas exports compared to other Arab countries during that quarter.
The study also confirmed that this export boom is due to Egypt’s efforts to restart the liquification complex in Damietta Port in February of last year, which has a production capacity of 5m tonnes per year, after an eight-year hiatus. This is in addition to operating the Idku Complex, which has a production capacity of about 7.2m tonnes per year.
The current global changes have made clear the importance of the EMGF and its role in securing some energy supplies in light of the potentialities of gas production available in the region and its ability to increase exports to Europe. Germany also quickly relaunched three projects to install LNG plants, which had not been a priority before.
In southern Europe, Spain and Portugal are competing to be an alternative source of supply for Russian gas. The Port of Sens — the largest port in Portugal — intends to double the capacity of its gas estuary in less than two years. Spain, which has a gas pipeline with Algeria and has large terminals to receive liquefied natural gas may also be an option.
But this requires hard work to improve the network with the rest of the EU across France. Another line was also re-launched to connect Europe with gas in the eastern Mediterranean, which was discovered in large quantities 20 years ago off the coasts of Israel and Cyprus.
What is certain is that there is a new map of natural gas around the world that has been drawn in light of the search for new sources of gas, but the good news is that Egypt has preceded everyone and has an actual place on that map that will be decided by the winner in the Mediterranean gas race.
Hatem Sadek Professor at Helwan University