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East Mediterranean gas no game-changer: IEA's Birol

'We're in the midst of gas abundance,' says Turkish head of International Energy Agency

Övünç Kutlu,Nuran Erkul Kaya  | 28.12.2018
East Mediterranean gas no game-changer: IEA's Birol Turkish head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Fatih Birol

By Ovunc Kutlu and Nuran Erkul Kaya

ANKARA

Natural gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean are unlikely to be a game-changer given rising supplies in the global gas market, according to the Turkish head of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Discoveries of new gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean have put some countries in the spotlight, but feasibility, political challenges, and the presence of other major gas producers impose hurdles on projects that may fail to have a major impact on the gas market, Fatih Birol said on Friday.

"Qatar's liquefied natural gas has a very dominant role in the Mediterranean market," he told Anadolu Agency.

"With Qatar, American gas, and incoming supply from Israel and Egypt, it looks very difficult economically to constitute a major project in the eastern Mediterranean, plus there are some political issues as well."

Currently, Qatar is leading liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports with 12 consecutive years under its belt, while the U.S. is looking to raise its LNG exports with its abundant shale gas supplies.

"With those and political difficulties, it's not right to expect a major game-changing role from eastern Mediterranean gas. We're in the midst of gas abundance," he added.

Natural gas reserves in Israel’s Leviathan field are estimated to be 620 billion cubic meters (bcm), while offshore discoveries in Tamar are estimated to hold 280 bcm of gas.

Total gas reserves in Egypt's Zohr field are around 850 bcm, while the Noor field was reported in June to hold 2.55 trillion cubic meters (tcm) of natural gas -- among the world's largest.

"Egypt first wanted to use this gas for its domestic consumption and has recently begun exporting gas. There will be some significant LNG exports from Egypt. They also discovered Noor field," Birol said.

"Israel has plans to export LNG in the future, or to integrate with Egyptian infrastructure. For now, however, it's using gas for its domestic consumption," he added.

Birol said there are additional natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean as well, but added that there is an oversupply of gas in the global market.

"A new major wave of production is coming in the LNG sector," he said.

Global natural gas production rose steadily from 2.94 tcm in 2007 to 3.68 tcm in 2017, a 25.2 percent leap, while LNG imports climbed from 356.7 bcm in 2016 to 393.4 bcm in 2017, a 10.3 percent annual jump, according to BP's Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 report.

Birol pointed to rising LNG production in the U.S., Qatar, and Australia, saying those three countries will become world leaders in LNG exports in 2025.

He also praised the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) project, which is set to deliver 6 bcm of gas from the Shah Deniz II field in Azerbaijan to Turkey, and an additional 10 bcm to Europe every year.

Birol emphasized that Turkey should focus on gas storage, which currently constitutes 10 percent of its gas consumption.

The world ratio of gas storage capacity to domestic gas consumption is around 25 percent, according to Birol.

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