Egypt has begun pumping natural gas to Syria by a pipeline running through Jordan as part of a giant project to export Egyptian gas to the Middle East and eventually to Europe, Syria’s oil minister said.
Sufian Allaw said the new pipeline would provide Syria with 88.3 million cubic feet (2.5 million cubic meters) of gas daily, increasing gradually to 212 million cubic feet (6 million cubic meters) per day over the next nine years.
He said the pipeline is vital to Syria, especially its electricity sector as 40 percent of power-generating stations in Syria are run by burning gas.
He said it would relieve current gas shortages in Syria.
Under the Arab Gas Pipeline Project signed in 2001, Egypt is to supply Jordan, Lebanon and Syria with natural gas for 30 years. The project costs more than $1.2 billion, with a total pipeline length of 750 miles (1,200 kilometers), about half of it inside Syrian territories.
The first phase linking Egypt with the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba was finished in 2003, with the pipeline passing under the Gulf of Aqaba to avoid crossing Israeli territory. Two years later, the second-phase extension of the pipeline reached the Jordanian town of Rihab north of the capital Amman.
Egypt has been exporting nearly 99 billion cubic feet (2.8 billion cubic meters) of gas a year to Jordan under a 15-year deal.
The third phase brought the pipeline to Syria’s Deir Ali power station south of Damascus, Allaw said, according to Syria’s official news agency SANA.
An extension to Lebanon is supposed to open later this year, followed by an extension to Turkey’s border, where the pipeline will be connected to the planned Nabucco Pipeline for the delivery of gas to Europe, under a deal reached in 2006 between Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Romania.
Syria’s oil production has declined in recent years and Damascus is trying to compensate by relying more heavily on natural gas. The country’s daily gas consumption is estimated at 477 million cubic feet (13.5 million cubic meters) per day. Its daily production of natural gas was estimated at 494 million cubic feet (14 million cubic meters) in 2007.
Egypt has potential natural gas reserves of 62 trillion cubic feet (1.7 trillion cubic meters), the 18th largest in the world, and is aiming to become one of the world’s top 10 natural gas exporters in the next four years.
Egypt began providing Israel with natural gas in February under a deal by which it will sell Israel 60 billion cubit feet (1.7 billion cubic meters) a year for a period of 15 years. The deal raised controversy at home, with some in the Egyptian opposition saying the gas was being sold at below-market rates.
Egypt is one of the few Arab states, along with Jordan and Mauritania, to officially recognize Israel but cooperation remains severely hampered by opposition groups resentment of Israeli policies against the Palestinians.
(Daily Star Egypt)