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Kimberly and Scott Sheffield
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 precipitated a global energy crisis with Europe as its epicenter. The war compelled Europe to endeavor to end its long-standing dependence on Russian natural gas, a goal that required diversification of supply. This process has proven challenging, however. Compared with oil, which is relatively fungible, gas is difficult to redirect due to high capital costs and long lead times for pipelines and liquefaction plants.
Amid this crisis, one region that has emerged as a promising new gas source for Europe is the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly Israel, Egypt, and Cyprus. Since 1999, exploration in deepwater basins in these three countries has resulted in the discovery of approximately 2,400 billion cubic meters (Bcm), or 80 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), of gas resources. Moreover, exploration is ongoing and new discoveries are possible, meaning that even greater volumes of gas could be available in the future.
This report, part of the work by the Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University SIPA, on oil and gas and the energy transition, focuses on the aforementioned three countries’ prospects of supplying gas to Europe from a technical, geopolitical, and economic perspective. Drawing on company, government, and press sources, the report finds that such gas can meaningfully contribute to European energy security, though mainly in the medium term and only given the involvement of external players—likely the US and/or the EU—and with buy-in from Eastern Mediterranean countries, which will need to see an upside in terms of their own energy security and energy transition.
Additional takeaways of the report are as follows:
National oil companies (NOCs) produce about half of the world’s oil and own the bulk of oil and gas reserves. They are also large issuers of bonds held by international financial institutions. Their ESG risks should be a matter of great concern.