Israel will expand its natural gas exports to Egypt from its offshore Tamar field, Energy Minister Israel Katz said on Wednesday amid renewed interest in offshore exploration and a debate on whether the gas should be kept for domestic use.
“This step will increase the state’s revenue and strengthen diplomatic ties between Israel and Egypt,” Katz said in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, though he did not provide further details.
Egypt, which faces growing demand for gas from its population of 105 million, has seen its gas production between January and May decline by 9 percent year-on-year and 12 percent when compared to the same period in 2021. The country has grappled with power shortages as heatwaves have driven up demand for cooling.
Katz added that he approved the new exports after ensuring that supplies for Israel’s domestic use were guaranteed.
Huge gas deposits were discovered in the past 15 years off Israel’s Mediterranean coast, but the government, in order to ensure the local market has enough in the future, set limits on how much can be sold abroad.
The issue has been hotly debated for years and was reignited in recent weeks after Israel’s budget director warned that the country risked exporting too much, endangering energy security.
Israeli public advocacy groups have warned that Israel could suffer gas shortages as domestic demand rises and have raised the prospect of environmental damage from heightened offshore activity.
In 2022, energy companies in Israel produced 21.29 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas, with just 9.21 bcm of it exported. The exports went to Egypt and Jordan.
Egypt has been seeking a regional supply role, selling its own gas and re-exporting Israeli gas as liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.