More Trouble for Egypt-Israel Gas Deal

Egypt's gas sales to Israel cause anger among Egyptians, due to rumored domestic gas shortage.

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Maayana Miskin, | updated: 19:32

Israel news photo: Wikimedia Commons

Egypt's sale of natural gas to Israel is creating controversy in Egypt again, due to rumors of a natural gas shortage in the country. Egypt provides Israel with roughly one-third of its natural gas under a 2005 agreement.

Egypt's natural gas consumption has grown sharply in recent years, more than doubling between 2004 and 2010.

The country is currently experiencing power shortages, which some officials say were caused by insufficient natural gas at many power plants. Officials have called on Egyptians to conserve power and refrain from displaying the festive lights customarily used during the Ramadan holiday this year.

While the shortage has officially been blamed on a shortage of power stations and to failure in supplying existing gas to the stations, some have linked blackouts to gas sales to Israel. Dr. Hamdy Hassan of the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc submitted a question to Egypt's Prime Minister on Saturday asking that the PM investigate the power outages and suggesting that he stop gas exports to Israel in order to provide additional power at home.

According to unnamed sources quoted in Egyptian media, the country's government may seek to repurchase more than one billion cubic meters of natural gas sold to Israel.

In January, officials in Egypt's Petroleum Ministry suggested importing natural gas from Iraq for use in its gas liquefaction facility in Damietta, which would be used to turn the Iraqi natural gas into liquid gas for resale. That suggestion also raised controversy, as opponents of gas exports to Israel suggested that the government cancel the sales rather than importing.

In 2008, Egypt temporarily cut the supply of natural gas to Israel, creating concern that it was running low on the resource. In 2009 an Egyptian court ruled against a committee that attempted to ban the export of gas to Israel.

Israel may soon have no need to import gas from Egypt, due to the discovery of a major gas field off the coast of Haifa.