Israel, Egypt Said to Discuss Gas Exports

Updated on
  • Egypt clarified that option to import Israeli gas still open
  • Previous arbitration ruling remains an obstacle to deals

A natural gas production platform west of the Ashkelon shore in Israel. 

Photographer: Handout/Getty Images Europe

Ministers from Egypt and Israel held a call last week to discuss the potential sale of Israeli gas to Egypt, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Egyptian Oil Minister Tarek El-Molla and Israel’s energy minister, Yuval Steinitz, spoke after an interview El-Molla gave to Bloomberg earlier this month sent shares of Israeli gas companies tumbling on speculation Egypt would halt talks on buying gas from Israel, the person said. El-Molla told Steinitz that Israeli gas exports to Egypt, which would be carried via pipeline, are still on the table, the person said.

Shares of Israeli gas producers extended their gains, with Delek Group Ltd. closing 6.9 percent higher in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

El-Molla said the main obstacle to any Israel-Egypt deal is the $2 billion fine a Swiss court determined Egypt’s natural gas companies must pay to Israel’s electricity provider for a previous deal, the person said. El-Molla said any progress on Israel-Egypt gas talks is contingent on first resolving that stand-off, the person said.

Israel is looking to export gas to neighbors from its offshore fields but the Egyptian government froze talks after the Swiss ruling in April, saying any new deal should include a resolution to pending arbitration cases. The partners in the Leviathan field, Israel’s biggest offshore site, view Egypt as a potential market for their gas. Houston, Texas-based Noble Energy Inc. and Israel’s Delek Group hold the biggest stakes in the gas pool.

Spokespersons for Egypt’s Oil Ministry and Israel’s Energy Ministry declined to comment.

— With assistance by Abdel Latif Wahba

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