ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece, Cyprus and Israel on Thursday are expected to sign a deal to build a 1,900 kilometer (1,180 mile) subsea pipeline to carry natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean’s rapidly developing gas industry to Europe.
They aim to reach a final investment decision in 2022 and completion by 2025.
European governments and Israel last year agreed to proceed with the so-called EastMed project, a $6 billion pipeline project that is expected to initially carry 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year from Israeli and Cypriot waters to the Greek island of Crete, on to the Greek mainland and into Europe’s gas network via Italy.
The energy ministers of Greece, Israel and Cyprus – Kostis Hatzidakis, Yuval Steinitz and Yiorgos Lakkotrypis – are expected to sign an agreement on the pipeline at a ceremony in Athens on Thursday.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades are expected to attend the event.
Greece has said the agreement will be concluded once Italy signs off too.
“With Italy taking part, the project will take its final shape as the most dynamic option to guarantee the European Union’s energy security from gas reserves in the Southeastern Mediterranean,” Greek energy minister Hatzidakis said on Thursday.
After meeting Mitsotakis in Athens, Cypriot President Anastasiades said the deal sets the foundation for closer energy cooperation in the Middle East.
A number of large gas fields have been discovered in the eastern Mediterranean Levant Basin since 2009.
However, the region lacks significant oil and gas infrastructure and political relations between the countries – including Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Syria – are strained on a number of fronts.
The signing for the EastMed pipeline comes weeks after Turkey and Libya struck an accord on sea boundaries in the Mediterranean, a move which Greece, Cyprus and Israel opposed.
Analysts say that pact could present a barrier to the proposed pipeline which would have to cross the planned Turkey-Libya economic zone.
The pipeline project is owned by IGI Poseidon, a joint venture between Greek gas firm DEPA and Italian energy group Edison.
DEPA on Thursday signed a letter of intent with Energean, a gas producer with a focus on the Eastern Mediterranean, to buy two billion cubic meters of gas from Energean’s gas fields off Israel via the planned pipeline.
DEPA said the gas volumes it would secure from Energean account for 20% of the pipeline’s initial capacity and that the agreement was a key step toward the commercial viability of the project.
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by Jason Neely)