Letter from Lhasa, number 330. Natural Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean: Casus Belli or Chance for R

Letter from Lhasa, number 330.Natural Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean: Casus Belli or Chance for Regional Cooperation?

by Roberto Abraham Scaruffi

[editors] Nathanson, R., and R. Levy,Natural Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean: Casus Belli or Chance for Regional Cooperation?, IEPN and INSS, Tel Aviv, Israel, November 2012.

(Nathanson 2012).

Dr. Roby Nathanson

Ro’ee Levy

Geoeconomics, geopolitics and security instances are aspects of the same reality. We use now this long quotation, from different source, for jumping into the core of the questions discussed in this paper. This paper examines various elements, included the legal ones which, of course, always are the cover of interests and conflicts. There is also something about some Israeli taxation issue. The paper is produced from Israeli sources and is published in Israel.     

“The eastern Mediterranean region includes eight significant basins (Cyprus basin, Eratosthenes High, Latakia basin, Levant basin, Judea basin, Nile Delta basin, Western Arabian province, and Zagros province), with the majority of the historical hydrocarbon production occurring in the Nile Delta Basin, the Western Arabian Province, and the Zagros Province. Most of the Nile Delta Basin lies within Egypt's territorial waters, although there is a small area under Cypriot control. To date, there have not been any significant discoveries in the Cypriot territory, although much of Egypt's offshore oil and gas production comes from the area. The Western Arabian province basin covers large parts of Jordan and Syria, and extends into Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Most of Jordan's fields and many of Syria's are in the Western Arabian Province. The Zagros Province extends from Turkey in the north, through Iraq and Iran, terminating in the Gulf of Oman in the south. Several of Syria's largest fields are part of the Zagros Province, but the vast majority of fields in the Zagros Province are in other countries including Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. While the Western Arabian and Zagros Provinces account for most of the historical hydrocarbon production in the region, most of the focus today is on the Levant Basin.

“Levant Basin

“Extending across a large section of the offshore areas of the eastern Mediterranean, the Levant Basin is at the center of recent energy exploration in the region. In a 2010 report, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimated that the Levant Basin has mean probable undiscovered oil resources of 1.7 billion barrels and, more significantly, mean probable undiscovered natural gas resources of 122 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). In context, the combined proved reserves of oil in the countries included in this report totaled just over 2.5 billion barrels as of January 2013—99.5 percent of which belong to Syria—and proved natural gas reserves of 18.2 Tcf. The USGS also estimated the mean probable undiscovered resources of natural gas liquids (NGL) at 3.1 billion barrels.

“While the USGS estimates do not reflect the entirety of potential energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean region, the resources of the Levant Basin likely represent a large part of the overall resource base. The USGS estimate of 1.7 billion barrels of oil, if discovered, would increase the region's proved reserves by slightly less than 70 percent, while the 122 Tcf of natural gas represents more than six times the region's current proved reserves. An additional 1.7 billion barrels of oil in the Levant Basin would meet regional demand for roughly 20 years at current levels of consumption, while 122 Tcf of natural gas could meet current regional demand almost indefinitely. Nearly all the recent significant discoveries in the Levant Basin were of natural gas, and, while offshore exploration may eventually yield recoverable quantities of oil, to date there have not been any commercially-viable discoveries.”

Europe is already served from various North African and East European pipelines. There is also a project for reaching the Algerian natural gas pipeline network from Nigeria, through Niger. There are projects of pipelines from Saudi Arabia to the East Mediterranean, and other projects from the Israeli and the Egyptian areas to Europe. Natural gas can also be exported in liquid form, although in this way it would be more costly.   

Basically, the East Mediterranean natural gas reserves, although relevant, are inferior, as quantity, to the Nigerian ones, while the Nigerian ones are inferior to the Saudi Arabia ones. The UAE has a bit less proved reserves than Saudi Arabia. Qatar considerably more. Saudi Arabia (8 trillion m3) plus Qatar (25 trillion m3) are equivalent, as natural gas proved reserves, to Iran (33 trillion m3). With the UAE (~7 trillion m3), Saudi Arabia and Qatar overcome Iran, as natural gas reserves. All these natural gas could fully satisfy local needs, as well as foreign ones, included European necessities.

Saudi Arabia is one of the main world terrorism creators, funders and managers for its own goals, and at British and US service. Idem Qatar. Israel is not less effective when useful for its interests.

Saudi Arabia is a British and US cover since it decisively cooperates with their worldwide terrorism. Israeli largely acts as a US province in the area. Qatar apparently is a new actor in this field. Of course, since their subordination to the quoted world powers, and since their usefulness for them, all these Middle East countries have some relative autonomy for pursuing their specific interests.

Looking at natural gas and oil interests, one can easily understand the conflicts in the area: for instance, the clash between the US and the British Empire in the area, one wanting to preserve its Israel, the other one wanting to destroy it at benefit of its Arab provinces; Turkey renewed interest in Israeli, Lebanese and Syrian affairs; Saudi Arabia expansionism and its attempts even to bribe Russia for destroying Syria; Russia interest in defending united Syria (although Russia had no interest in an Iranian pipeline to the Mediterranean); the never-ending conflict between Israel and its occupied territories it does not annex and it does not make in same way, and eventually only a fraction of them, independent. Gaza, not only Israel, would prosper since its offshore gas, if it were independent. Gaza would prosper also if annexed by Israel. There are also decisive Greek, Cyprus (de factosplit in two, the Republic of Cyprus and the secessionist Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only from Turkey) and EU interests.     

Conflicts are frequently easily solvable. Interests hampering solutions are usually stronger than those could find and implement solutions.

Russia does not like other competitors on the European markets. Consequently, it is interested to join the Eastern Mediterranean oil and natural gas business but for local consumption or, eventually, for targeting, as export, the Asian markets. Russia has some military power, and a long tradition of subversion and terrorism, although, in my opinion, only until the British and the US Empires allow it to deploy its conventional and unconventional military power. Until Russia will not really modernize itself and will not become really competitive relatively to the Anglophone world, it can only exploit others’ weaknesses and uncertainties. It is a paper tiger. Actually, it is an Anglophone Empires appendix.  

Saudi Arabia and other Arab Peninsula countries are destabilizing, since a long time, the Mediterranean area, as well as other areas of the world. Now, in the Middle East area, there is the activism of Turkey too. Saudi Arabia has considerable reserves of natural gas, not only of oil. Only Iran has considerably more natural gas proved reserves, although it be not so, summing the Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE ones.

The Anglo-American, French, Turkish and Arab Peninsula countries destabilization of Syria for destroying it began with renovate strength when Iran was planning to export its vast natural gas reserves to Europe by a pipeline through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. ( It is also going on the USA&UK- and Arab-sponsored terrorism in Iraq.

This Iranian natural gas pipeline was competitive relatively to a Western-Arabian project of pipeline from Egypt to Lebanon and Syria, possibly also to Turkey, bypassing Israel. Syria opted for the Iranian pipeline. ( Iran has more or considerably more natural gas reserves (33 trillion m3 proved reserves, according to theCIA World Factbook) than each one of the Arab countries, and of Israel and Cyprus.

Since how international relations work, if the Trans-Saharan (from Nigeria to Algeria, through Niger) gas pipeline project were really implemented and it clashed against some Israeli and/or Arab Peninsula countries interests, it is not difficult to forecast what will happen. In Nigeria, law and order is still highly aleatory. It would be easy to destabilize it. But even avoiding it, it would be even easier and cheaper to strike the pipeline in Niger, a Francophone country larger than Nigeria, with less than 1/10 of its populations and considerably poorer.

Actually, until when Russia will be successful in covering the Syrian regime, also Iran will have some military power in the area. Impossible to know what will happen in the next days and weeks, when the USA will move on towards the destruction and dissolution of Syria. It may happen everything but also nothing. Present Syria may simply disappear.

For the EU, it will be surer and cheaper the Iranian natural gas, with a rapid construction of the planned pipeline and, eventually, its extensions to Turkey, Greece and the whole EU, although also Arab peninsula gas would be excellent for it. A plurality of providers guarantees continuity of supply and cheaper prices.

All that since when some decisive scientific and technological jump will not make obsolete this problematic dependency from hydrocarbons.

[editors] Nathanson, R., and R. Levy,Natural Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean: Casus Belli or Chance for Regional Cooperation?, IEPN and INSS, Tel Aviv, Israel, November 2012. 

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Atualizado em: Sex 6 Set 2013

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