Equilibrium & Sustainability

Erdoğan: US pulling support for EastMed gas pipeline due to high costs

The U.S. is rescinding its support for an underground pipeline that could transport natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean Sea to Europe due to its economic implausibility, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday, according to Reuters

The so-called EastMed pipeline, proposed as an alternative to Europe’s reliance on Russian gas, would convey some 10 billion cubic meters of Israeli and Cypriot natural gas annually via a 1,180-mile pipeline to Greece, and into Europe’s gas network via Italy, the news service reported.

“This project is not something that can happen. They [the United States] carried out all the analyses, and they saw it had no positive sides,” Erdoğan told reporters during a visit to Albania on broadcaster NTV, as cited by Reuters. “In other words, the cost calculations don’t add up.”

Erdoğan’s comments came amid a recent relaxation in tensions between Turkey and Israel, and as natural gas prices in Europe continue to escalate. The European Union relies on Russia for about a third of its gas supplies.

Although Turkey has long opposed the EastMed project, which had the support of the Trump administration, the Biden administration only began expressing its qualms about the plans last week, Reuters noted.

Meanwhile, the Ankara-based Andolu Agency cited a State Department official as stating that the Biden administration is looking “critically at new fossil fuel infrastructure projects to ensure U.S. support is not directed to carbon-intensive sources.”

“The American side expressed to the Greek side reservations as to the rationale of the EastMed pipeline, [and] raised issues of its economic viability and environmental [issues],” one source told Reuters.

The Turkish news agency, on the other hand, described the situation as much more definitive — asserting that the Biden administration “formally withdrew its support for EastMed.”

Israeli and European officials first signed a joint declaration for the construction of the EastMed pipeline in April 2017, at a ceremony in Tel Aviv, as reported by The Jerusalem Post. At the time, the privately funded project was estimated to cost as much as $7 billion and be complete by 2025.

A feasibility study, which concluded that the project was technically possible, was co-financed by the European Commission, as part of the EU Project of Common Interest program. The study was carried out by IGI Poseidon — a joint venture between Italian energy company Edison and the Greek DEPA Group.

Former Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz described the venture as “the longest and deepest subsea gas pipeline in the world,” while former Greek Environment and Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis at the time stressed Greece’s critical role in Europe’s gas diversification process “as a transit country,” as reported by the Post.

The most recent progress on the EastMed project involved the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Israel Natural Gas Lines Ltd. (INGL) and IGI Poseidon in March 2021, for the design of the pipeline’s connection to INGL’s transmission system, a news release from Israeli Energy Ministry stated.

With the signing of this agreement, according to the Energy Ministry, the parties would then begin promoting the planning and licensing of facilities to be built within Israel’s exclusive economic zone — the coastal waters where Israel has jurisdiction and where the country’s natural reservoirs are located.

About 808 miles of subsea pipeline would be constructed, while another 373 miles of pipeline would be built onshore in Greece, the ministry said.

In response to inquiries from The Hill on Tuesday, Israel’s Energy Ministry and Foreign Ministry both declined to comment on Erdoğan’s assertions.

Equilibrium & Sustainability