Egypt to export natural gas to crisis-hit Lebanon
Egypt will export natural gas to Lebanon via a pipeline running through Jordan and Syria following an agreement to help relieve the fuel shortage currently paralysing Lebanon. In a meeting hosted by Jordan yesterday, the four countries agreed to bring online the Arab Gas Pipeline, which will be used to feed a power plant in the north of the country.
Lebanon is suffering crippling electricity shortages after its central bank lifted fuel subsidies last month as the country grapples with a devastating economic crisis. The country’s plummeting currency and stricken financial system has left it unable to import enough fuel to keep the lights on, and power cuts and surging fuel costs have disrupted even vital services such as hospitals. The country’s energy ministry hopes that the gas supplies will enable it to generate 450 MW of power and is in talks with the World Bank to receive funding, the country’s energy minister Raymond Ghajar said at the presser.
But there’s no word yet on when the gas might start being pumped: Egyptian Oil Minister Tarek El Molla said the government hopes to start pumping “as soon as possible” but didn’t give an idea on when the pipeline may be brought back online, and said that some clauses of the preexisting contract need to be reviewed, without disclosing further information. Maintenance work is needed to get the 20-year-old pipeline up and running, which has been inactive since 2010 and has been subject to frequent attacks through the Syrian civil war. Jordanian Energy Minister Hala Al Zawati indicated that this could be finished in just three weeks, telling reporters yesterday that “it is almost ready… some things here and there need fixing.”
A potential complication: The US, which had been spearheading the plan, could have its hands tied by sanctions it imposed on the Syrian government in 2011. Lebanese officials are making appeals to Washington to make an exception.
Egypt and Jordan are both founding members of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) and have agreed to cooperate on technical and commercial exchange, infrastructure development, and financing facilitation in the regional gas sector.