03/08/2011 23:59

The idea is for the gas to power the power station in Gaza, which currently uses diesel to supply electricity to Gaza’s residents.

Natural gas from the Gaza Marine field is intended for the residents of the Gaza Strip, and Israel will not buy it, people familiar with the matter told Globes Tuesday.

The idea is for the gas to power the power station in Gaza, which currently uses diesel to supply electricity to the Gaza Strip’s residents.

Israel is also considering delivering gas from Gaza Marine via the Yam Tethys rig by pipeline to Ashkelon and then to Gaza. Security considerations partly underlie the Israeli proposals; Israel is concerned that Hamas could use the diesel for the power station.

The Palestinian Authority would be the main beneficiary of a switch to natural gas, as it would save an estimated $100 million a year.

On Sunday, Globes disclosed that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has proposed to PA President Mahmoud Abbas to jointly develop the Gaza Marine and Noa offshore natural-gas fields.

The Noa field, which has 7 billion to 8 billion cubic meters of gas could replace Egyptian gas, if its supply is not resumed, while the 30- Gaza Marine field could meet the electricity needs of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents.

Israel Electric Corporation currently supplies 44 percent of Gaza’s electricity, and 50% is supplied by the 140- megawatt local power station.

Egypt supplies the rest.

Conversion of the Gaza power plant to natural gas would require construction of a pipeline, which would take three years. Although Hamas rules the Gaza Strip, it is not officially involved in the production of electricity or its supply to the population.

Until a year ago, the EU paid for diesel bought from Paz, but the PA now bears the full cost.

The PA has not been able to collect debts the electricity it supplies to Gaza’s residents from the power station, which means that the cost of fuel to operate it causes financial losses.

For their part, Gaza residents suffer from prolonged outages because the plant is only partly operational.

The Gaza power plant is the only plant owned by the PA.

However, Palestinian entrepreneurs want to build a 600- megawatt plant near Jenin.

IEC currently supplies all of the West Bank’s electricity, and the PA is IEC’s largest customer, responsible for 7% of total sale, amounting to more than NIS 1 billion a year. Construction of the Jenin power plant would save IEC the need to build a new NIS 1b. power plant of its own.