Tag Archives: Mediterranean

Northern Mali Threat Continues to Cast Shadow Over Algerian Energy

ImageDespite the apparent success of a French-led military force in ridding Northern Mali from an armed separatist movement, recent violence has suggested that significant challenges remain to both that country and the energy sectors of its neighbors.

As recently as this past weekend, a car bomb and violence were reported in Timbuktu, once again highlighting the uncertainty of the region and the challenges of those in the region in need of a more stable business environment.

As much of North Africa has struggled with wide-ranging political opposition movements, resulting in the collapse of long-standing governments, Algeria has remained unchallenged by protest efforts. Rather, threats to the country’s stability have come from outside, with substantial pressure coming from a stretch of Mali along the country’s southern border. The country has struggled with an armed separatist movement for months, which seized authority from national troops late last year.

This pressure boiled over into Algeria in January with a coordinated raid on a BP gas site, spurring a messy government response and ending with the death of 38 foreign workers. The impact was immediate, with foreign firms suggesting delays to protect their personnel and neighboring Libya promising swift action against any similar events.  

More than just an unfortunate turn of events for a country that relies heavily on energy revenues for just about every aspect of government spending, the event presented a real threat to vital foreign investment needed to strengthen and expand the country’s infrastructure.  Algeria currently boasts access to about 12.2 billion barrels in oil reserves and 159 tcf of natural gas, with the U.S. as one of their largest trading partners.

However, a recent decline in local production and a push to tap into the country’s sizable shale potential have highlighted the role of foreign investment in the country’s immediate energy growth plans. To reach new output goals, Algeria will contribute billions from their own coffers towards boosting downstream capacity, but they will also need to partner with foreign partners who can offer the investment support and technical know-how needed to boost production exploit shale reserves in the near future.

Algeria has promoted substantial shale potential, attracting a number of necessary foreign firms to their shores, each providing the equipment and experience needed for the introduction of shale to the region. Keeping them in place may prove a little more difficult unless Algeria can provide a more stable working environment, making the kind of flare-ups seen this week all the more damaging.  

Originally Posted: Newsbase’s MEA Downstream Monitor

Photo: Mem.algeria.com

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A Spotlight on Greece’s Energy Potential But Roadblocks Remain

As Athens struggles to find a viable path out of Greece’s current economic morass, the country’s oil and gas potential have come under scrutiny as possible keys to future growth. However, despite early reports detailing potential across the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean seas, accessing those reserves may prove more difficult than government officials are letting on.

According to NBC News, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras released a study earlier this summer suggesting as much as $600 billion worth of offshore natural gas in waters accessible by Greece. The report pointed to 3.5 Tcm and the equivalent of 1.5 billion barrels of oil off the southern coast of Crete that might equal or surpass reserves found in the Eastern Mediterranean Levantine Basin. The Levantine Basin is currently the focus of a surge in activity and investment from Cyprus and Israel.

In hopes of replicating the Eastern Mediterranean natural gas rush, Athens has begun offering licensing rounds and seismic studies of the region to move forward with a sector that they feel could be a path towards erasing their debt and addressing the heavy costs of current energy imports. Greece currently spends about 5 percent of GDP on foreign oil and gas each year.

Despite such potential, reaching Greece’s reserves could be particularly challenging and unrealistic for short-term economic recovery efforts. Facing significant pressure from Brussels to reign in spending and address massive debt obligations, Athens has pursued a program of austerity that has done little to ensure political stability or investment confidence.

With little funding to spare and possible benefits years off, the idea of dedicating money to early hydrocarbon development appears increasingly impractical in the eyes of the country’s economically stressed population. The country’s licensing rounds offer one path forward, but it is still too early to tell whether foreign investors are willing to enter the still volatile Greek economy. Further, the country’s privatization push includes the sale of domestic natural gas provider DEPA and its transmission system operator, making the bridge between significant future hydrocarbon revenues and the state all the more unclear.

Still, Athens appears willing to move forward with the energy exploration effort and has also begun exploring the possibility of establishing themselves as a transmission hub for gas from the Levantine Basin when Cypriot and Israeli efforts begin to mature.

Image: Hellenext

Originally Posted: Newsbase EurOil Monitor

 

 

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Tunisia and an Undefined Shale Future

As the rush to exploit shale reserves continues across the globe, Tunisia’s potential has come into the spotlight due to a number of conflicting reports from interested foreign firms and the country’s new government.

Facing expected increases in local demand and a weakened post-Arab Spring economy, which contracted 1.8 percent last year, a Tunisian shale boom would be a helpful step forward in terms of energy security and growth. While modest in comparison to larger shale markets, most notably the United States and China and to a lesser degree, Poland, Tunisia’s shale estimates suggest enough potential to change the energy landscape of this country of 10.5 million. According to a U.S. Energy Intelligence Agency report, as of 2009, Tunisia offered approximately 18 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas.

However, despite clearly stated interest on the part of several foreign firms and a lack of viable hydrocarbon alternatives, Tunisia’s current transitional government has avoided a clear embrace of the often-controversial extraction process.

A Growing Caution

As countries across the globe rush to replicate the progress seen in the United States over the last decade, many have rushed to partner with foreign partners with more direct experience with the costly and very technical shale extraction process, known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. The extraction, according to the UPI, “involves drilling into the rocks horizontally and then cracking them with a high-pressure missile of water mixed with sand and chemicals, to unlock the gas from the impermeable shale rock.”

The complexities of this process and the environmental risks involved have made introducing shale projects difficult into new markets increasingly difficult. Bolstered by reporting and advocacy groups in the United States, opposition has grown due to concern about possible harmful waste, water supplies and the potential impact irresponsible development could have on the local environment and aquifers.  This has resulted in partial or outright bans on shale efforts across Europe and delays in government approval in several more countries.

Early reports suggest that these concerns may have had a hand in the delay or outright denial of licensing rights for shale projects in Tunisia. In late September, Tunisia’s Industry Ministry were pushed to respond to reports that they were preparing to grant an unconventional license to Shell in the Kairouan region of the country. Denying the completed agreement, the Ministry announced that while they had received a related application, they had responded with an appeal for an environmental and water impact analysis, according to an Al Bawaba report.

The water usage issue related to “fracking”, which can require millions of gallons for each well, is especially important for the arid North African region. The Ministry release did allow that government was considering shale options, stating, “Tunisia is mulling over producing shale gas to meet its growing domestic demand and the expected drop in traditional oil stock”.

However, just a few days later, the African Manager website reported that a source close to the case stated that shale efforts would likely be abandoned completely by the current government thanks to concerns about the potential environmental impact. While unconfirmed outside of that source, the report does reflect the lack of a clear narrative about the country’s current position on introducing shale efforts.

Ready and Waiting

However the country decides, they will have a number of potential partners to held lay a shale foundation. Earlier this year, Shell announced plans to pursue unconventional efforts in both Tunisia and neighboring Algeria, which has been much more assertive in their support for shale development. So far, Algiers has signed production agreements with Italy’s Eni and Shell, among others. Going so far as to introduce new hydrocarbon legislation to entice foreign investment in unconventional energy projects, Algeria has set a course for energy diversification, addressing a steady increase in domestic demand and allowing an increase in export revenue.

For Tunisia, the addition of shale to the country’s energy options would address more modest goals of just easing dependence on costly refined oil imports and the burden of steadily declining local oil reserves.

In addition to Shell, Winstar Resources have also expressed a strong interest in pursing what they feel is Tunisia’s vas energy potential. Despite reports of a possible sale of their Tunisian interests earlier this year, the Canadian company included a positive outlook of their access to the country’s shale potential in their August, second quarter corporate report. Earlier this year, representatives from Italy’s Eni suggested they might extend their shale reach beyond Algeria and were “thinking of entering the Tunisian shale gas market,” according to a Dow Jones report.

In late September, the country’s shale reserves also took center stage at the second annual Tunisia Oil and Gas Summit, where the keynote session explored Tunisia’s unconventional, including input from a number of foreign E&P firms and sponsor Halliburton. The US company has been at the forefront of shale excavation technology for decades.

It should be noted that even if the country’s transitional government side against introducing shale to the Tunisian landscape, presidential and parliamentary elections have now been scheduled for June of next year. With new leadership in sight, any opposition could face a limited lifespan. For their part, Shell has not included any information about unconventional projects in their online literature related to Tunisia, but did recently announce a $150 million oil exploration deal in the country.

Image: Agency Tunis African Press

Originally Posted: Newsbase’s AfrOil Monitor

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Spanish Economy and Transport Limitations Keep Medgaz Low

After a year of delivering Algerian natural gas to Spain, the Medgaz pipeline continues to face significant challenges to full capacity, with traffic running lower than expected due to a number of factors in Spain and beyond.

The pipeline connecting Algeria with Almeria has the capacity to transport “8 billion cubic meters annually, or 22 percent of Spain’s gas needs,” according to a Reuters report. Sonatrach currently owns 36 percent of Medgaz, with Iberdrola, Abu Dhabi’s Cepsa, Enel’s Endesa and Gaz de France on as project partners.

Algeria’s role as one of the largest natural gas importers in the world has been hurt recently thanks to the country’s sustained economic downturn, which shows little sign of improving in the near future. Even after announcing an EU-level bailout for Spain’s ailing banking system this past weekend, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warned that the country’s economy faced a difficult year ahead, suggesting further economic contraction and a longer path to recovery.

Such sentiment gives little confidence to the country’s natural gas actors who are dealing with a decrease in demand so significant that Spain’s newest LNG plant will be hibernated as soon as it is completed in December. Complicating the matter further, Spain’s limited connection to other European natural gas customers has hindered the country’s ability to off-load excess supply. Spain’s minimal pipeline network to France is likely to remain limited due to long-standing political opposition to new transport lines from France.

Still, Medgaz appears confident that Spain’s increased dependence on natural gas will continue beyond the country’s current economic woes, with company reports pointing to steady growth despite recent financial troubles.

For their part, Algeria and their state-backed firm Sonatrach have been working to increase their natural gas efforts, announcing an $80 billion euro plan to expand their resource base over the next five years.

Image: Arabian Oil and Gas

Originally Published in Newsbase’s Afr Downstream Monitor – All Rights Reserved

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Egyptian Energy Presses Ahead Despite Criticism

Despite extensive efforts, Egypt has struggled to get their economy back on track in the year since widespread public protests led to the ousting of long-standing president Hosni Mubarak. Political instability and uncertain investors have kept needed international funding at bay, as Cairo works to establish a solid foundation for the country’s first new government after decades of Mubarak leadership. The country’s coveted tourism sector remains weak and despite enormous reported potential, Egypt’s renewable industry has been slow to start as investors and international financing agencies adopt a ‘Wait-and-See’ attitude.

Still, despite the stagnate pace of growth and economic recovery, one sector of the country’s economy has continued to shows signs of life – Egypt’s oil and natural gas producers. According to United States National Public Radio report this week, the country’s General Petroleum Company, the government office charged with making final decisions on exploration and production agreements, has continued to add to the country’s 148 standing partnerships.

The continued rounds of licensing for both on and offshore efforts comes despite strong criticism aimed at how such efforts were carried out under the Mubarak government, with critics leveling complaints at a perceived lack of transparency about pricing and the amount of domestic reserves set aside for exporting.

The continued lack of transparency surrounding the natural gas deals has critics worried that even with Mubarak gone, the Egyptian government may still be allowing the kind of controversial agreements that led to a wave of protest earlier this year. The backlash came soon after an investigation uncovered payment agreements with Israel and Jordan for Egyptian natural gas that assured under-market prices in exchange for benefits for local government officials. While Jordan was quick to work out a renegotiated deal, contested trade agreements with Israel added to existing strain between new political leaders in Cairo and its eastern neighbor.  The situation was further complicated by a series of now 14 attacks on natural gas pipelines in the Sinai region of Egypt, halting exports again and again. Energy relations between the two countries showed little sign of improving after Cairo cancelled a 2005 export agreement with Israel, who currently depend on Egypt for 40 percent of their energy needs.

More than just lost revenues, the decision to cancel Egypt’s 20-year deal to supply natural gas to Israel is now resulting in a lawsuit filed by investors in the East Mediterranean Gas for violations of bi-lateral investment treaties, according to a Bloomberg report.

Despite such criticism, the government may have little choice than to support new production deals under the pressure of mounting debt and wavering interest from existing project partners. According to Australia’s The National, the Egyptian government has accrued about $4 billion in debt to international energy firms due in part to large-scale purchases to allow for heavily subsidized domestic sales. This comes despite the country’s own 78 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves. This debt has recently increased, according to the report, due to late payments as a result of the country’s recent political instability.

Further complicating the situation for the government and local partners, the country’s recent uncertainty and apparent high cost of operating in Egyptian territory has pushed some international firms to reassess their presence there. In November of last year, Royal Dutch Shell handed back an offshore block, stating that the high costs of operating there overshadowed the possible rate of return.

Still, many firms are looking past the country’s current predicament and ahead to a potentially calmer new year, including Houston’s Apache and the UK’s BP, who are hoping to capitalize on a 2010 offshore effort. In fact, it is the government’s willingness to pursue new deals despite the country’s current challenges that has Apache feeling confident about the months ahead.

“Our operation has continued [uninterrupted] and supported by government partners as evidenced by the issuance of new…leases,” Apache President and Chief Operating Officer Rodney Eichler said, according to a Dow Jones report. “We are optimistic for Apache’s future in Egypt.”

Given the financial limitations of the country’s current government, anything more than new licenses may be too much to hope for. Burdened by significant budget shortfalls, the Egyptian government will be unlikely to consider any price renegotiations with existing production partners, regardless of the additional risks now associated with operating in the country.

However, regardless of either company’s intentions or interests, existing deals could soon come under scrutiny should critics chose to build on the investigation that put a spotlight on the Israeli and Jordanian deals.

“Some terms that are now in question are part of the 2010 deal with BP for the extraction of deepwater Mediterranean gas,” reported NPR. “While many details of the deal have not been made public, it has many critics.”

A similar threat of agreement reviews has foreign partners on edge in Libya, where the country’s transitional government has pledged to take a closer look at those oil and gas agreements completed under Gadaffi.

Originally Published at Newsbase’s Afroil Report. All Rights Reserved.

Image: Modern Egypt.info

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Libya’s Production Back on Track but Foreign Partners Could Still Be Frozen Out

As oil and gas production levels continue to rise in post-Gadaffi Libya, government officials have grown more confident that the country’s best chance for economic growth is back on track to meeting and exceeding pre-conflict levels. However, mixed messages to foreign partners and a lack of progress dealing with vital structural and stability issues threaten to derail the energy sector’s return before it can take hold.

By the end of February, members of the country’s appointed transitional government reported that oil production had reached 1.4 million bpd and would likely reach pre-war levels of 1.6 million by mid-summer. The country’s natural gas output also increased to 2.3 billion cubic feet during the same period from 2.2 billion at the end of January. Adding to the good news, Libyan officials have reported that new exploration efforts have finally become possible again.

However, reports detailing a national energy infrastructure unprepared to cope with a return to service and certainly unable to host the sort of production expansion the country has set as an overall goal have cast doubt on Libya’s production future. Even before being damaged in the violence that halted most energy activity last year, Libya’s energy infrastructure was viewed as out of date and insufficient for modern operations, causing an unrepresentative contribution to global markets despite hosting the continent’s largest proven reserves. Attributed to the country’s economic isolation under the leadership of Muammar Gadaffi, the infrastructure deficit had seen some signs of improvement since sanctions were lifted in 2004, but not nearly enough.

Attracting foreign investors and project partners has emerged as pivotal to Libya’s ability to return to adequately exploit their energy potential, but a series of mixed-messages about requirements has continued to hurt that process. While the country’s transitional government stated energy efforts would favor those firms from countries that had supported their anti-Gadaffi campaign, the actual approach has been more scattered. While both China and Germany did not initially vote in support of international military action in the country, Chinese firms have recently received a series of new contracts while many arriving from Berlin and Frankfurt have found themselves frozen out, according to a recent report in Der Spiegel.

Still, the progress thus far has been heralded by government representatives, like Deputy Minister Omar Shakmak, as proof of the country’s progress, adding in local press reports, that the production return had come with the help of local staff.

“All oil and gas facilities are now being managed by Libyan engineers and workers, a remarkable achievement by Libyan work force which has proved to be well trained and without technical assistance from outside the country,” Shakmak told the Tripoli Post. Shakmak has also told a number of media outlets that he too expects the country to reach 2010 levels by mid to late summer, though with elections planned for June, it’s unclear just how many current leaders will be around to answer for such an estimate.

The minister’s assertion comes as several international firms continue to weigh the risks of the country’s political and security uncertainties and returning their staff and overall presence to pre-conflict levels – a development seen as necessary to helping Libya get production levels back to form.

In addition to questions of overall security and repairs to the country’s energy infrastructure, which experienced damage during Libya’s civil war last year, foreign firms have expressed caution about the country’s political future.

“It is a question of what framework we are going to have. We are waiting for a long-term sustainable situation in the country. How long it would take, I don’t know,” Wintershall Chief Executive Rainer Seele told Reuters. The German firm represents the country’s largest foreign partner until violence forced the company to halt operations at the end of last year. Since returning, Wintershall has tripled production levels since last fall but has said that it could easily reach 90,000 bpd if not for the country’s out of date infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Libya’s largest foreign partner, Italy’s Eni, has steadily worked to return to their pre-conflict production levels after a slight, early misstep when it appeared uncertain whether anti-government forces would succeed in ousting Gadaffi.

When asked about progress last week, Eni press officer Fabio Cesaro stated that since the conclusion of the internal conflict, and the gradual return to political and social normality in the country, “we have stepped up our efforts to fully resume production at our Libyan sites and facilities and gas exports through the Greenstream pipeline on the back of our stable contacts with the Interim Transitional National Council and continued collaboration with the NOC.”

Citing major milestones achieved in the final part of the year, including the restarting of oil production at the Wafa and Bu Attifel fields in September, the reopening of the Greenstream and gas production at the Wafa field in October, and the return to production of the Sabratha gas platform at the Bahr Essalam field in November, Cesaro said the company was aiming to reach pre-conflict goals by the second half of this year.

Still, the country’s overall economic and political uncertainty has kept other foreign firms at bay. Previously, BP press representatives expressed caution to suggesting that they would return when security for all company staff, both foreign and local, could be assured. So far, this level of confidence has not been reached.

Image: Telegraph UK

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Local Protests Target Med Offshore Drilling

A recently quiet opposition movement against drilling oil and natural gas exploration off Spain’s Andalusian coastline has come alive in 2012 as local communities have begun calling on the new national government to reverse local offshore licenses.  With protests coming from across the political spectrum, including members of the local Green Party as well as the conservative Partido Popular, the projects have been targeted for their potential impact on the region’s tourism and fishing industries. Already weighed down by a near dormant national economy and a real estate market that has all but collapsed since 2008, the Andalusian coastline has become especially sensitive to any perceived threats to the remaining tourism market, which stands as the region’s largest economic factor for jobs and development.

The most recent project to come under fire includes an area of 130,000 hectares off Almuñecar, Salobreña and Motril (Granada) and Nerja and Torrox (Malaga), led by Canadian firm, CNWL. The project is the result of a 2006 appeal for exploration rights by CNWL but was delayed until last year after local opposition slowed the approval process. Local political and environmental groups have begun calling on the new government of Mariano Rajoy’s Partido Popular to reverse the project approval, including calls from members of his own party. The protests follow a similar pushback against exploration efforts on the part of Repsol off the nearby coast, in front of the tourist havens of Mijas and Fuengirola.

CNWL responded to local press queries, stating that they had no firm date to begin exploration efforts, though they were aiming for June of this year and would be pursuing natural gas finds, not oil, according to La Opinion of Malaga.

Although the protests have only occurred at a local level, the opposition to offshore efforts in Andalusia reflects a larger Mediterranean aversion to such efforts. In the months following the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, political and environmental groups rallied behind new legislation and public protests, successfully slowing or halting offshore efforts in Italian and Spanish waters, as well as Libyan waters amid worries related to BP’s safety record. The efforts received a boost of support from European Commissioner for Energy Günter Ottinger, who proposed the idea of a moratorium on offshore efforts in European waters.

Image: Today’s Zaman

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North African States Search for Vital Energy Stability

Eager to rebound from the halt in production in output brought on by last year’s sweeping political transitions, North African states are stepping up efforts to quell worries about security and stability. However, despite their best efforts, some actions are being met with obstacles that include financial challenges and even violence. A recent report in The Wall Street Journal suggested that the instability in the region, as well as the uncertainty about the viability of Iranian oil, had sent large consumers like China in search of new sources of oil and natural gas.

“China is making good progress toward diversifying its oil supply,” Gordon Kwan, a Hong Kong-based energy analyst at Mirae Asset Securities told the WSJ. “If they were to concentrate on just one or two countries that just accidentally went out of production, [global] oil prices could easily double.”

One of China’s losses in the region came from the production shutdown in Libya, which remains a thorn in the side of the country’s largest clients. Although the country’s transitional government has worked to restart production efforts and promote a new sense of security for foreign workers to return, some obstacles remain. So far, Libya has been unable to reopen the vital Ras Lanuf refinery despite assurances that it would already be up and running. However, despite delays, the government has worked to ease worries by saying it will be functioning within months and will be able to double its capacity within twenty-four months, according to Reuters Africa.

In Cairo, the country’s transitional government has sought out ways to combat a series of attacks on vital pipelines in the Sinai Peninsula, which began shortly before the ousting of long-standing president Hosni Mubarak. The attacks have repeatedly shut down the country’s exports to Israel and Jordon, reducing much needed revenue for the country’s new government and sending their trading partners in search of new sources of natural gas.

Image: Ahram.org

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New Med Landscape Spurs Pipeline Reevaluation

A new political and economic landscape across the Mediterranean region has led to a revaluation of existing and upcoming pipeline projects with some receiving a fresh look from political leaders and investors.

Economic shifts across Southern Europe and long-awaited political transitions across North Africa over the last year have forced many in the Mediterranean region to rethink their dependence on transport lines and where oil and gas deliveries will come from in the coming years. Political strife turned violent in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt resulted in complete pipeline shutdowns at several points during 2011 leaving customers to the north uncertain about the future of their energy needs. Heavily dependent on Libyan products and exports from Algeria, shipped through a Tunisian hosted pipeline, Italy in particular faced potential reserve deficits over the last year. Further east, attacks on pipelines in the Sinai Peninsula left heavily dependent Israel and Jordon to explore alternative options for their natural gas needs. This new environment has allowed for consideration of other projects in the region as energy customers seek stability for the years ahead.

“Widespread instability across the Middle East and Africa region has raised important questions about the long-term impact on upstream investments, oil and gas production and hydrocarbon exports in the region,” wrote Abdalla Salem El-Badri, Secretary General of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in an October opinion piece for The New York Times. A recent report in The Wall Street Journal suggested that the instability in the region, as well as the uncertainty about the viability of Iranian oil, had sent large consumers like China in search of new sources of oil and natural gas.

“China is making good progress toward diversifying its oil supply,” Gordon Kwan, a Hong Kong-based energy analyst at Mirae Asset Securities told the WSJ. “If they were to concentrate on just one or two countries that just accidentally went out of production, [global] oil prices could easily double.”

A Fresh Look

A long delayed direct connection between Algeria and Italy has received new attention since political instability in Tunisia and Libya led Italian leaders to rethink the reliability of their existing transport lines. The result of an MOU signed in 2007, bringing to together the interests of Algeria’s state-backed Sonatrach, Euro energy firms Edison, Enel and Hera, the 900km Galsi pipeline would mark the second such project linking the North African nation with Italy, via a landing in Sardinia. However, unlike the Trans Mediterranean pipeline, the Galsi would carry an estimated 8 billion cubic meters of gas northwards upon completion directly from country to country, skipping a passage through Tunisia. Held up due to issues of funding and government support, the Galsi has earned the support of Italian industry and political leaders eager to reduce their dependence on transport lines through the potentially volatile Tunisian territory.

The new pipeline would become the country’s fourth connection to the European marketplace, joining the Transmed, Maghreb-Europe Gas and MedGaz pipelines, the last of which came on line in mid-2011 though Spanish dips in demand have kept it from running at full capacity. Following delays and outright production stoppages resulting from political strife in Libya, the end of 2011 saw a return to service for the country’s Greenstream pipeline. According to the UPI, Italy imported 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas in November despite a reduction in the country’s demand.

Both the Galsi and MedGaz pipelines will play a large part in Algeria’s efforts to greatly increase production and exports over the coming year. Having spent the last year addressing corruption at the country’s state-backed energy firm Sonatrach, a shift in sector leadership and finding ways to quell the sort of public protests that led to political changes in neighboring Libya and Tunisia, Algeria are now focused on expanding their energy industry through infrastructure investment and greater use of new transport lines.

Eastern Promise

Driven by the potential of new natural gas efforts in the eastern Mediterranean, Greek natural-gas supplier Depa have conducted a preliminary study into the feasibility of a pipeline linking Cyprus and Greece. While the report found that the pipeline was possible, it may run into opposition from regional leaders as claims to Eastern Mediterranean natural gas reserves have become the focal point of political infighting between Cyprus, Turkey, Israel and Lebanon. Depa have also begun exploring the possibility of a liquefied natural-gas terminal as an alternative, according to a report in Business Week.

The focus on the Eastern Mediterranean centers on the Leviathan Basin, inviting both conflicting claims to the area’s natural gas potential and a host of new transport and production project proposals from all sides. With the potential to allow for greater energy independence for countries like Israel, the Basin could serve to further reduce demand for products transported through volatile North African pipelines, including the Egyptian lines that have suffered from continued attacks since the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak.

Image: Iraq Business News

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A Mediterranean State of Change

Its a topic that’s been tossed around a lot these last two years but one worth repeating – the monumental wave of change that has rolled across the Mediterranean these last few years. At risk of overstating the point, I think it would be safe to say we are witnessing an evolution of the region that has seen roles reversed, goals aligned and countries previously thought to be on opposite end of the political and economic spectrum close together than they have been in centuries. Its a point I would like to come back to over these next few weeks as the reality of Europe’s economic challenge take hold and North Africa’s political evolution becomes clear but for now, here is a Guardian run-down of the events facing each and every one of the Mediterranean states. Plenty to absorb and plenty to discuss.

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