Cyprus, Greece, Israel and Italy on Tuesday (5 December) signed a memorandum of understanding to build the world’s longest underwater natural gas pipeline to supply Europe.
“The project will secure a direct long-term export route from Israel and Cyprus to Greece, Italy and other European markets… thereby strengthening EU’s security of supply,” a joint statement said.
It said the four states would also pool resources on studies for the construction and operation of the ambitious project, which is seen as technically and financially viable.
The pipeline to supply Europe with natural gas will be some 2,000 kilometres long, and is estimated to cost approximately €5 billion. It will have an annual capacity of 10-16 billion cubic feet, and could be completed by 2025.
Israeli energy minister Yuval Steinitz and his Cyprus and Greece counterparts, George Lakkotrypis and Giorgos Stathakis, attended the ceremony, as did the Italian ambassador to Cyprus, Andrea Cavallari.
The European Commission’s Deputy Director-General for Energy, Christopher Jones, was also present.
In April, representatives of the EU and the four nations signed a joint declaration to back the project to export gas to Europe from Israel’s Leviathan field and Cyprus’s Aphrodite bloc.
They decided to establish a working group to promote an interstate agreement, which could happen as early as spring 2018, during a meeting scheduled to be held on Crete.
The pipeline would connect the Leviathan field via the Aphrodite field, Crete, mainland Greece and Italy. It could become a more profitable venture if Israel and Cyprus discover additional major gas fields, thus lowering costs, although critics have pointed out that the price of gas and falling costs of renewable energy currently casts doubt on its financial viability.
Cyprus is currently the only EU member state that is not connected to another bloc member by either gas or electricity connections, which is not in keeping with the targets of the Energy Union.
In October, Nicosia and Athens agreed to press on with another large-scale energy project, the EuroAsia electricity cable, which would link Greece to Israel via Cyprus and Crete.
With a significantly shorter construction time, the 1,500km-long 2,000MW cable could be up and running by 2022. Costs are estimated to be around the €3.5bn mark.
As part of the European Union's Energy Union plans, the 28 member state bloc aims to cut its dependency on Russian gas imports and diversify its energy supply in order to boost energy security. Its obligations under the Paris Agreement also mean this has to go hand-in-hand with decarbonisation efforts. A debate about whether this energy transition should include less dirty natural gas or be purely based on renewable energy sources continues to divide NGOs, policymakers and industry. One camp insists that renewable energy sources are not reliable enough to handle the transition alone, whereas the other side claims that gas, as a fossil fuel, has no place in Europe's future energy mix.