Israel is considering a plan to build an underwater natural gas pipeline to Europe as a way to transport gas being drilled from offshore wells in the eastern Mediterranean. The plan, as reported August 30 in Globes, involves a pipeline that will run from the Tamar and Dalit gas fields, located off Israel’s northern coastline, and along the seabed to Greece where it will then be transported overland to various EU countries. The undersea gas fields are currently being developed by a drilling consortium involving the American Nobel Energy Inc., based in Houston Texas, and the Israeli Delek Group Ltd., controlled by business tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva.
The gas fields have been mentioned previously, particularly regarding the potential environmental dangers they pose to the already endangered Mediterranean Sea. Running an undersea gas pipeline is a very challenging engineering endeavor; the environmental aspects are only part of the issues involved.
Israel’s northern neighbor, Lebanon, now under the increasing influence of Hezbollah, is challenging Israel’s claim of ownership in these gas fields and has brought the issue to the attention of the UN General Assembly.
Assuming that the political issues surrounding the gas fields can be worked out between the two countries, the ecological dangers of such a pipeline in any marine environment are already well known, and in Lebanon, corruption often jeopardizes its normal political functions, including environmental matters.
Even surface gas pipelines are subject to explosions and other damage due to leaks and tampering. Then of course there are the dangers of undersea quakes, as the eastern Mediterranean straddles one the world’s major geological fault lines.
According to Globes, Israel hopes that by exporting natural gas to Europe, the country’s geopolitical standing with the EU will improve: this will give European countries an energy alternative to dependence on natural gas from Russia, and the “Russian government’s muscle-flexing and willingness to cut off gas supplies to countries that do not accept its diktats.”
Channeling the pipeline to Greece will also indicate a shift of Israel’s relations to that country as a result of the increasing deterioration of Israel’s relations with Turkey.
Putting political implications aside, the environmental dangers to the Mediterranean are still the main issues here, and running an undersea natural gas pipeline along 1201.6 Kilometers or 648.4 Nautical Miles of Mediterranean seabed is enough of an ecological worry to keep oceanographers and marine biologists up nights for years to come.
Images: Noble Energy Inc.
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