Egypt to open tenders for gas exploration near Israeli border

The Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) will tender bids at the end of March for natural gas exploration sites near the country’s maritime border with Israel, according to Petroleum Ministry sources.

The sources, who asked not to be identified, said some of the targeted sites are adjacent to the water borderline previously set by Egypt to preserve its right to the underwater natural gas, which a US geological survey agency had set at 223 trillion square feet.

On 17 December 2011, Israel and Cyprus signed an agreement aimed at facilitating the search for mineral deposits in the east Mediterranean after Cyprus announced the discovery of a natural gas reserve of between 5 trillion and 8 trillion square feet off its southern coast, stating the discovery falls within its exclusive economic zone. US-based exploration firm Noble Energy found the reserve.

Earlier in January, the Petroleum Ministry said the discovery did not fall within Egypt’s territorial waters.

Ibrahim Zahran, an oil expert, said the move by the Egyptian government should have been made earlier because its Israeli counterpart adopts a de facto policy. He said Israel has not signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Ramadan Abul Ela, a petroleum engineering professor at Pharos University in Alexandria, said offering new gas exploration sites is a top priority as regional countries vie for securing natural gas sources.

In February, geological expert Mahfouz al-Bouny told Al-Masry Al-Youm that Egypt had previously agreed with the United Nations on its water borders as means to preserve its sovereignty and right to natural resources, but noted that both Egypt and Israel had not yet demarcated their joint water borders.

Bouny said gas explorations in the Mediterranean by some countries may ignite regional disputes if countries fail to mark their water borders either through bilateral or multilateral agreements.

Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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