Pipeline explosion in Sinai halts supply around region.
By Avi Bar-Eli

srael has various ways to produce electricity if it lacks Egyptian gas, government officials and the power utility said yesterday.

At around 8 A.M. yesterday, an explosion shook the measuring station along the pipeline supplying Jordan and Syria. That pipeline is 20 to 30 kilometers from the pipeline to Israel. The fire was extinguished in the afternoon.
gas – AFP – February 6 2011

Flames arising from the pipeline in northern Sinai yesterday.
Photo by: AFP

As a result, the Egyptian gas company E-gas closed the pipelines in the area, including the one to Israel. Israel’s supplier, the EMG Group, told the Infrastructure Ministry and the Israel Electric Corporation that the pipeline was closed.

The Infrastructure Ministry instructed the IEC to negotiate with EMG’s competitor the Tethys Sea group about increasing the gas supply from that reserve. The dwindling Tethys Sea reserve, off the Ashkelon coast, is owned by the Delek Group and Noble Energy.

Because electricity demand is relatively low over the weekend, the gas outage did not affect power supply, and the IEC was not forced to make an emergency purchase from Tethys Sea.

The IEC was preparing gas turbines yesterday to use diesel fuel.

The Merhav Group, the Israeli partner in EMG, said the explosion damaged Egypt’s gas network nationwide, and that the gas supply to Israel would be down for up to a week so the pipeline could cool off.

The line to Israel was not attacked, contrary to earlier reports, said Merhav. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau and security officials yesterday morning. He announced afterward that Israel was prepared should the Egyptian gas supply be cut off, and that it had alternatives.

The IEC also said it was prepared for interruptions in the gas supply.

This isn’t the first time the Egyptian gas supply has been cut, but yesterday’s outage had a particularly strong impact due to the political instability shaking Israel’s southern neighbor.

EMG currently supplies Israel with 2.2 billion cubic meters of gas a year; a large majority goes to IEC power plants. The remaining 100 million cubic meters goes to private factories.

All told, EMG supplies 43% of the IEC’s natural gas and accounts for a little less than one-fifth of the country’s electricity production.

If the Egyptian gas supply doesn’t resume by this morning, the IEC has three options. It can increase electricity production at coal-fired power plants, it can start producing electricity from gas turbines fitted to run on diesel fuel, or it can use mazut, a diesel precursor.

EMG recently signed supply contracts with several Israel Corporation companies to supply 22 billion cubic meters of gas over 20 years. It also plans to supply private power plants, including the Dorad plant being built in Ashkelon and several by the Edeltech Group, as well as other private customers. These deals would increase its total export volume to Israel to 5 billion cubic meters a year.