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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Gas off Gaza coast sitting while Hamas/Fatah bicker

From Xinhua:
Under Gaza's glittering waters of the Mediterranean, a strategic gas reservoir that is capable of ending the crippling power crisis in this Palestinian enclave has been lying out of commission since it was discovered 12 years ago.

Now, electricity outage in Gaza is suffered up to 12 hours per day, as the only power plant lacks enough diesel to run its turbines. Cars stop in long queues for hours at petrol stations, hospitals warning that fuel for generators is running up and cooking gas suffers sporadic shortages.

In 2000, the U.K.-based energy firm BG Group plc and its partners -- the Lebanese Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA)'s Investment Fund -- announced the discovery of a gas field 36 km off the Gaza coast. Later in the year, the consortium said it drilled two wells (Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2), with estimated resources of around 1 trillion cubic feet.

"There are no real obstacles preventing us from extracting the gas," said a source from BG group. "The only problem is that we are still searching for a market." The source says that despite talking to several regional and foreign potential buyers, no agreement was reached. No explanation for this was offered from the source.

BG Group spent seven years in negotiations with Israel as a possible purchaser of Gaza gas, but the negotiations stopped in 2007 and the company closed its Tel Aviv office. Sources from the company say Israel wanted to get the gas for two U.S. dollars per cubic feet, below the market's seven-dollar price.

Also in 2007, Islamic Hamas movement wrested control of the Gaza Strip, leaving the PNA's rule confined to the West Bank. As Al-Khatib and the BG Group source downplayed the partial responsibility of the Palestinian split for not extracting gas, another BG Group source did not. "If there was no split, the gas field might have been developed."
Of course, the article can't resist false Israel-bashing:
As part of the Israeli sanctions against Hamas, shipments of diesel to the station from Israel were limited. For a year, Hamas managed to smuggle the fuel from Egypt, but the process was interrupted by the beginning of 2012.
Um, no. Israel was sending all the fuel it was being paid for through Kerem Shalom. Hamas stopped the shipments for over a year and refused to resume them for months as Gaza went dark.
Observers believe that Israel's monopoly on the Palestinian energy resources aim at preventing any unilateral step of independence by the Palestinian leadership.
Those "observers" wouldn't happen to be rabid Israel haters, would they?

(h/t Meryl Yourish)