A future technological revolution was embedded in the secret accords signed March 29 at the Astir Palace Hotel in Vouliagmen by Israeli Energy and Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, Greek Minister for the Environment, Energy and Climate Change Georgos Papkonstantinou, and Cypriot Industry Minister Neolklis Sylikiotis, and witnessed by US State Department Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy Richard Morningstar
The accords provided for technical cooperation among the three partners in the research and development of the oil and gas fields they are developing in the eastern Mediterranean.
But beyond the dry technicalities, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources disclose that the documents herald a revolution in the technology for conveying the oil and gas from source to consumer.
The principle is simple although the technology is futuristic: Instead of investing hundreds of billions of dollars in laying vast pipeline networks across countries and continents and lending the transit lands disproportionate strategic clout, utilities will use the output of the oil and gas fields for manufacturing electricity. Underwater cables from those plants will carry the electricity to market. Since laying seabed cables is cheaper and simpler than building pipeline infrastructure, the customer will receive cheap electricity instead of crude oil or natural gas.
Still to be explored the Crete offshore potential
Under the new tripartite energy contracts signed this week, Israel, Greece and Cyprus will be the first countries in the world to put this principle into practice with assistance and financing from the United States.
By now, the companies developing the new Mediterranean oil and gas fields – Texas-based Noble Energy Mediterranean Ltd, the Israeli Isramco Negev 2 Limited Partnership, Delek Drilling Limited Partnership, Avner Oil Exploration Limited Partnership, DorGas Exploration Limited Partnership and the Cypriot firms – have a rough estimate of the quantities of oil and gas present in their respective fields.
Still to be explored is the offshore potential between Cyprus and Greece, especially around Crete, the largest and most populous of the Greek islands and the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The contracts just signed cover cooperation between the three Mediterranean signatories in the exploration and development of Greek oil and gas deep-sea resources.
The Americans have carried out their own survey. The results which Morningstar presented to the three signatories were that the existing Israeli and Cypriot oilfields combined with the unexplored Greek resources are estimated to be capable in total of keeping kept European Union countries supplied with all the non-nuclear electricity they need for industry, home consumption and heating for half a century or more.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources disclose that the most secret clauses of the accords provide for Israel and Cyprus to jointly build one of the largest electricity industries in the world to provide power for the lamps of Europe through huge undersea cables. They draw on calculations that this electricity would be cheaper than any other fuel the Europeans could produce themselves.
Reducing Europe’s dependence on Persian Gulf, Russian oil
The first electricity plant will be situated in Israel. Neither Greece nor Cyprus can drum up the trillions of dollars of capital investment for the entire project of developing the fields, the industry and the long-distance cables. The US and Israel will put down the initial investment with the Europeans coming in later.
If this vast project takes off, it will have ultimate global and regional consequences:
1. Europe will no longer eventually depend for its oil and gas on Persian Gulf countries and Russia, so reducing their political and financial leverage in the continent.
2. Russia’s status as a global power will slow down.
3. Similar energy industries rising in other parts of the world, especially the Far East, will ease China’s dependence on the Middle East for its fuel needs.
4. It will override the energy bloc Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is striving to set up between Turkey, Iran and Iraq which, according to US predictions, will suffer from political instability for years to come. Instead, the US will own a controlling interest in an energy alliance binding Israel, Greece and Cyprus, to which other Middle East nations with energy potential, such as Lebanon, and possibly even Libya, may be attached in time.
5. In regional terms, Israel will be linked to Europe by electrical cables, while Muslim Turkey’s chances of joining the European Union will continue to fade.
The agreements signed near Athens on March 29 were predicated on a five-year timeline: By around 2017, Israel hopes to start feeding the first electricity to Cyprus and on from there to Greece and Europe.