A trilateral Greece-Cyprus-Israel summit will take place in Beersheba on December 20 where host Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras, and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades are expected to boost cooperation between the three Mediterranean countries, especially energy.

The three leaders are also expected to reconfirm their commitment to the EastMed gas pipeline, which is expected to transport gas from the newly discovered fields in the East Mediterranean region to Greece and onto Europe. “I am sure that the summit will reconfirm commitment to the project, but signature of an inter-governmental agreement to take it forward will be delayed until early 2019,” Natural Hydrocarbons Company CEO Charles Ellinas told New Europe on December 14. “This of course will not make the project any more viable commercially, but should move it into the next stage,” he said, adding that in his view, this is still a political project in need of commercial interest and participation, but cost make it highly challenging.

Meanwhile, US energy giant ExxonMobil’s drilling operations in Block 10 in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), where the Stena IceMAX drillship is stationed, has started drilling despite Turkey’s warnings. “ExxonMobil’s drilling is progressing well, as planned, without any problems encountered so far and despite Turkey’s warnings I do not expect that there will be any interference,” Ellinas said.

The trilateral Greece-Cyprus-Israel summit will re-confirm support to Cyprus and its right to develop the hydrocarbon resources in its EEZ and call on Turkey to refrain from any interference, Ellinas said.

US Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources Frank Fannon, at a conference call with reporters on December 11, highlighted the importance of East Med for EU energy security, noting, “We’re seeing new and sizeable finds in locations which didn’t exist as gas supply just ten years ago,” he said. “In the Eastern Mediterranean where I was a few weeks prior, significant new volumes and integration in the region are allowing for new gas supplies to find their way on world markets and potentially certainly to Europe,” Fannon said.

Ellinas reminded that the US Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources also visited the region recently and confirmed US support to the development of hydrocarbons in Cyprus EEZ for the equitable benefit of its people, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. “Should ExxonMobil be successful with, hopefully, a significant discovery in Block 10, I expect that this would attract more US and EU interest,” Ellinas said, stressing that with attempts being made by the United Nations to get the negotiations for the Cyprus problem resumed, any active interest by the US and the EU can only help.

Meanwhile, the first 150.000 m3 liquefied natural gas (LNG) spot cargo from the United States will be unloaded in DESFA’s new tank at Revithoussa terminal in Greece on December 29, following the deal between DEPA and Cheniere.

Asked if there will be an increased role of LNG in the region, especially after the Interconnector Greece Bulgaria (IGB) is constructed, Ellinas said that given the great limitations, not the least cost, of long-distance subsea pipelines, LNG offers the best way to develop the region’s gas, opening access to global markets, particularly to Asia where future gas demand growth is going to be.

“With regards to Greece and southeast Europe, LNG has a role to play but rather limited.” Ellinas said access to cheaper pipeline gas, including the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and Russia’s Turkish Stream or TurkStream, in his view, would continue providing the bulk of the region’s gas needs.

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