Egypt Business Body Hails Decision to Import Israeli Natural Gas
by Ben Cohen
Egypt’s leading business organization has praised Cairo’s plans to import natural gas from Israel, saying that doing so will “yield many benefits.”
In another sign of the burgeoning security and commercial ties between the two countries since Abdel Fattah el Sisi became president of Egypt in 2014, the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI) said that that the deal with Israel would reduce import costs by relying on pipelines already installed by East Mediterranean Gas (EMG), the company that had supervised Egyptian gas exports to Israel before they were halted following the 2011 uprising that led to a Muslim Brotherhood government.
The government’s decision to take “serious steps in considering natural gas imports from foreign companies that won exploration rights in Israeli fields will yield many benefits,” said Tamer Abu Bakr, head of the FEI’s energy committee.
Abu Bakr said that the Israeli gas price would stand at US $7 per million Btu (the measurement unit for natural gas – 1,000 Btu is the equivalent of 1 Cubic Foot,) compared to $14 for liquefied natural gas obtained from other countries such as Algeria and Russia.
The deal with Israel is not without its detractors. In November last year, Gamal Zahran, an Egyptian oil analyst, said that gas prices offered by Algeria were cheaper than the Israeli alternative. Zahran also criticized the process for the resale of Israeli gas, saying that some “officials from the oil sector have interests in the importation of natural gas. They receive commissions, exactly like they did when Egypt exported natural gas to Israel.”
There are also more explicitly political objections. After Egypt’s petroleum minister Sherif Ismail said in late October that “it is no longer unthinkable for the president and the government to work directly with Israel,” Reda Moharram, a professor of energy studies at Al Azhar University, shot back: “The import of natural gas from Israel is a threat to Egypt’s national security.”
“The gas fields from which Egypt intends to import are located in Mediterranean waters between Israel and Cyprus,” Moharram said. “Since these fields are the subject of regional disputes between Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, a move to import gas from Israel will lead to hostility with neighboring countries. Egypt does not need those suspicious deals.”