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Maritime border agreement: is this the solution to our gas problem?

Israel and Lebanon would have put an end to the dispute over maritime borders with a “historic agreement”. Both countries want to develop new gas fields.

After decades of controversy,

Israel and Lebanon appear to have agreed on a common maritime border. This means that both countries can now develop gas fields in the Mediterranean that had previously been closed due to the dispute.

Israel has long planned to increase its production volumes and therefore also its exports to European countries. So can the deal contribute to a solution to Europe’s energy problems? And do the talks mean a rapprochement between hostile states? t-online provides an overview.

The object of the conflict was an area of ​​860 square kilometers off the coasts of the states of Israel and Lebanon, which both sides claim exclusively for themselves. The border conflict had intensified after the discovery of large quantities of natural gas. The current talks between countries that have been formally at war since 1948 have been mediated by the United States and have been ongoing since October 2020.

According to Israeli information, the dispute has now been resolved. The parties have agreed on a new border in the Mediterranean, under which the natural resources of the Mediterranean will be divided. “This is a historic achievement,” Israeli Prime Minister Jair Lapid said Tuesday. The Lebanese team has not yet definitively confirmed the move, but has sent positive signals. “I am optimistic,” commented Lebanese chief negotiator Elias Bu Saab.

Great importance is attached to the agreement in terms of security policy. Observers had warned that a failure of the negotiations could lead to renewed violence between the two countries. The Shiite Hezbollah militia, influential in Lebanon, is hostile to Israel, but their approval was needed for the deal.

However, both sides pointed out in advance that the talks do not mean a normalization of relations. US negotiator Amos Hochstein always met the two sides separately, direct talks did not take place. This is one of the reasons why the agreement could take a special form, according to information from the “New York Times”: the two parties do not agree directly with each other, but each sign a declaration together with the US.

Details of the deal have not yet been officially announced. In all likelihood, however, two gas fields will be affected by the regulation: Israel will then receive the rights to the “Karisch” field – Lebanon could drill natural gas in the “Kana” field, but part of the proceeds will have to be paid in Israel because the ‘area extends into the Israeli economic zone.

According to the Times of Israel, Israel wants to start extracting natural gas within weeks. On Sunday, the company in charge Energean had already received approval to connect “Karisch” to the transport system as proof.

“Karian” is said to contain a total of approximately 50 billion cubic meters. By 2025, Energean wants to increase the annual production volume to 8 billion cubic meters per year. For comparison: Germany’s consumption is around 90 billion cubic meters per year. However, new production projects always mean an increase in possible gas exports, especially in the case of Israel.

For Lebanon, funding above all means hope for a resumption of the dramatic economic crisis that the country is going through. Many Lebanese only have electricity for an hour or two a day. Extensive preparations are still needed before production can begin at the “Kana” gas field – according to Lebanese news agency Ani, the Middle Eastern boss of the energy company Total visited the country on Tuesday.

Israel, on the other hand, has been increasing its production volumes for some time and would like to increase the volume of its exports, including to EU countries. To this end, an agreement was signed in June that allows gas to be conveyed to Egypt and then transported to Europe via liquid gas terminals. The EU Commission expects deliveries of around 10 billion cubic meters for 2023.

Ultimately, Germany could also benefit from liquid gas deliveries, which is increasingly trying to find new suppliers in view of the cuts in connections with Russia. Federal Minister of Economy Habeck traveled to Qatar in March, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Senegal in May and intends to support the West African country in exporting liquid gas in the future.

The United States Geological Survey estimates that the eastern Mediterranean contains 3.5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. Russia has about ten times that amount.

Furthermore, extraction is made more difficult by the years of preparation required for the development of new gas fields, by the unresolved border conflicts between Mediterranean countries such as Turkey and Greece and, last but not least, by climate change: The International Energy The agency warns against building new fossil fuel infrastructure. If the experts wanted, no new gas fields would develop anywhere in the world, because the methane that escapes during production and transport heats the Earth’s atmosphere much more than the more familiar greenhouse gas CO2.

“There is no panacea,” Energean spokesman Paddy Blewer told The New York Times about Europe’s energy problems. The drilling in the “Karisch” field may be just a tiny piece of the puzzle of a possible solution.

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