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Regional gas forum to be held in Cyprus with a focus on EU energy security

The forum's main topic will be the European Union's efforts to disassociate itself from Russian gas, which has an impact on all of the region's gas-producing nations. Natasa Pilides, the Minister of Energy, Commerce, and Industry, will serve as the forum's president. 

Several significant stakeholders, including the Secretary General of the forum, Osama Mobarez, the Energy Ministers of Egypt, Jordan, and Greece, as well as EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson will attend the conference, which is taking place in the middle of the continuing crisis in Ukraine, an event that has had negative effects for the EU's energy market.

Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Israel, France, Italy, Jordan, Palestine, and Greece will take part as EMGF members; the EU, the World Bank, and the US will attend as observers.

"Together with Commissioner Simson and my Egyptian, Greek and Jordanian counterparts, as well as the Secretary General of the EMGF, we will consider the role of Eastern Mediterranean countries and the EU in promoting and strengthening the cooperation needed to achieve the ambitious goals of the green deal, but also for the energy independence of the EU from Russian natural gas," according to Mrs Pilides.

The conference's afternoon session, which will be restricted to the media, will reportedly focus on more technocratic topics.

The session will examine the status of the projects that were previously given priority by the Cyprus chair of the forum, including the project for the Eastern Mediterranean Decarbonization of Natural Gas.

It also looked at a specialized study on the potential contribution of regional natural gas reserves from the Eastern Mediterranean to the EU's energy security as well as the transfer of electricity from renewable energy sources through future interconnections, boosting efforts at energy diversification through new sources and routes.

Demetris Fessas, acting director general of Cyprus Hydrocarbons Company, stated that the methodology and action plan for the decarbonization of Eastern Mediterranean natural gas will be presented during the first portion of the private session. In order to aid in the transition to low-carbon gas resources, the strategy calls for emission reductions throughout the whole gas industry supply chain of EMGF member nations.

Additionally, according to Fessas, a presentation of the road plan created under Cyprus's EMGF presidency in response to the energy crisis, which will allow the Eastern Mediterranean to contribute to the EU's energy security, would be made during the afternoon session.

The roadmap, according to Fessas, "builds on a previous, coordinated effort made at the EMGF to analyse the natural gas demand and production of the forum’s member countries, and we believe it can make a significant contribution to the EU’s efforts to diversify its energy sources and routes."

In answer to a query on the possible contribution of the Eastern Mediterranean to the EU's attempts to gradually wean itself off of Russian natural gas, Pilides said that the countries in the area can undoubtedly assist in the short and medium term.

Additionally, she pointed out that specific activities regarding the supply of power from Egypt and Israel to the EU have already been arranged through the agreement that was signed between the EU, Egypt, and Israel.

However, according to Pilides, a sizable portion of the gas in Egypt and Israel has been set aside for either their respective internal markets or for export in accordance with prior commitments, which has an impact on the two countries' potential to supply the EU with gas in the near future.

As a result, Pilides stated, "the effort is certainly focused on both the development of additional sources of energy in Egypt and Israel, where the drilling activity will proceed, as well as the gas reserves of Cyprus, where there are significant quantities which could be channelled to the EU."

To that end, she said, "we will have a bilateral meeting with Kadri Simson next Thursday, as well as a meeting with the President of the Republic, to discuss this issue, among other things, while contacts will certainly be made in the context of the conference in which commissioner Simson will, of course, be present."

The Cyprus Hydrocarbons Company, the consortium in charge of developing the Venus block, and Chevron continue to meet with the ministry's technocratic groups, Pilides said in response to a query regarding the next stages in the permitted blocks in the Cypriot EEZ.

She also mentioned that the discussion regarding the marketing component had begun, which the minister regarded as being crucial to both the entire strategy and the delivery of natural gas to Egypt.

The Cypriot minister stated that the seismic surveys connected to the data gathering in blocks 10 and 5 for Exxon Mobil and Qatar Energy had been finished, adding that the data now has to be analyzed.

"We are anticipating what the next steps will be in relation to Block 10 based on the findings, as well as what the plan will be for Block 5, which was recently licensed to the consortium," Pilides added.

Pilides mentioned the ENI/TOTAL joint venture and said that drilling in block 6 is moving forward.

The drilling is undoubtedly crucial for the advancement of our energy program, Pilides said. "We still have no indication of the possible results [...] but any additional quantities will help a lot in the possibility of the rapid development of block 6," he said.

The Energy Minister stated that there is definitely a chance that the East Med pipeline would be built, saying that the studies that the implementing body will submit are anticipated either at the end of this year or at the start of the following year.

The timescale for implementing the East Med pipeline is longer, she said.

Pilides also reaffirmed that Chevron is taking into account the possibility of shipping natural gas from the Aphrodite field to Egypt, which is seen to be the most likely.

She continued by saying that for block 6, the possibility of the gas being transferred to Egypt still exists, and a floating liquefaction unit is also being taken into consideration.

The East Med pipeline and natural gas delivery from Israel to Cyprus, a scenario for which Cyprus remains open, might work in tandem, Pilides said referring to a proposal by Energean, adding that "these options can certainly be implemented faster than the East Med pipeline." 

The minister continued, "We remain open to the proposal expected to be submitted after the company secures the gas export licenses it needs from Israel to be able to pursue such a matter."

In the meantime, when questioned about the EEZ delimitation agreement between Israel and Lebanon, Pilides stated that the signing of this agreement would be a positive development because it would now unlock even more potential in the Eastern Mediterranean, allowing it to contribute to both the region's faster development of natural resources and the EU's independence from Russian natural gas.

"We certainly look forward to seeing the results and remain hopeful that positive announcements will be made soon," Pilides said in closing.


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