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Israel’s Minister of Energy Karin Elhararr signed on Wednesday a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Israel, Egypt, and the European Union (EU) on cooperation regarding trade, transportation, and export of natural gas from Israel to EU countries, as part of the Regional Gas Forum of the Eastern Mediterranean Countries (EMGF) in Egypt.

The MOU recognizes the key role that natural gas will play in the energy economy among EU countries by 2030. In subsequent years, the use of natural gas in EU member states is expected to decrease toward EU Member States’ meeting their zero-emission economy by 2050.

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The agreement stipulates that the signatory parties will work together to enable the regular supply of natural gas to EU member states from Egypt, Israel, and other destinations, through the existing natural gas liquefaction infrastructure in Egypt. Israel runs gas from its Leviathan field to the Liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in Egypt, which can then be exported.

The Memorandum of Understanding includes a number of steps that will enable the acceleration of its implementation. One clause has the EU encouraging European companies to participate in competitive proceedings and invest in natural gas exploration and production projects in Israel and Egypt.

At the same time, the parties will work to reduce methane emissions and will test technologies for methane capture and mitigation operations, at all stages of the supply chain. The agreement also includes a joint examination of the possibilities of using carbon capture as part of the formulation of a general plan for reducing emissions and decarbonization of the natural gas sector, as well as finding ways to invest in the development of technologies to advance these goals.

The agreement is valid from the date of signing for three years and will be automatically renewed for another two years.

This signing of the MOU is “another step on the way to Israel’s positioning as a natural gas power, which will increase natural gas exports to Egypt, and from there to other European countries, which need another natural gas source following the global energy crisis,” the Ministry of Energy stated.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated Tuesday that Europe is seeking to end its dependency on natural gas flowing from Russia and instead wants to purchase it from Israel.

Speaking after receiving an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev on Tuesday, von der Leyen stated that after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “the Kremlin has used our dependency on Russian fossil fuels to blackmail us.”

“Since the beginning of the war, Russia has deliberately cut off its gas supplies to Poland, Bulgaria and Finland, and Dutch and Danish companies, in retaliation for our support of Ukraine. But the Kremlin’s behavior only strengthens our resolve to break free of our dependence on Russian fossil fuels,” she declared.

“The export of natural gas serves as a political lever and contributes to Israel geopolitically while maintaining the amount of natural gas needed for the consumption of the local economy,” the Ministry of Energy stated, underscoring that this move “also has enormous economic significance for the local energy economy and the Israeli economy. In addition, this move helps Israel and countries like Egypt reduce the use of polluting fuels such as coal and oil, and dramatically lowers air pollution in the region.”

Elharrar stated that “this is a tremendous moment in which little Israel becomes a significant player in the global energy market.” The agreement will “enable Israel to export Israeli natural gas to Europe for the first time.”

Israel has emerged as an energy empire in recent years following the significant gas discoveries off its shores, found in some 20 wells. The gas fields are not only economically important to Israel, but politically as well. In 2013, the Israeli government decided that the country should export 40% of its gas production and invest the profits in economic development. It plans to build a pipeline through Cyprus to Greece to provide Europe with gas, the EastMed project.

In total, some 35 trillion cubic feet of gas have been found in Israeli waters, worth some $500 billion.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.