Israel's Officials Urge Energy Independence Following Egypt Pipeline Blast

Infrastructure Minister: We must prepare for prospect of life without Egyptian gas; Israel Electric Corp: Our power plants will keep running.

Israel needs to prepare itself for a future without Egyptian natural gas supplies, an senior Israeli official said on Wednesday, following an earlier explosion at the Sinai pipeline carrying gas from Egypt into Israel.

An explosion rocked a natural gas terminal near Egypt's border with Israel earlier Wednesday sending flames shooting into the air and forcing the shutdown of the country's export pipeline, said security officials. The pipeline supplies gas to Israel and Jordan.


"An unknown armed gang attacked the gas pipeline," a security source told Reuters, adding that the flow of gas to Israel and Jordan had been hit.

"Authorities closed the main source of gas supplying the pipeline and are working to extinguish the fire," the source said, adding there was a tower of flame at the scene.

Egyptian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, did not say if explosion was due to sabotage or an accident.

Speaking with Army Radio later Wednesday, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau warned that Israel "should be prepared for a situation where gas flow from Egypt would stop."

In response to the pipeline explosion, the Israel Electric Company said in a statement that it would use all available resources to ensure reliable service, "including the use of alternate fuels approved by the National Infrastructure Ministry and the Environmental Protection Ministry."

Referring to the explosion, former Mossad official Danny Yatom said that the sabotage, the second such incident in recent months, may be a trend Israel would have to deal with in the foreseeable future.

"It's a problem we'll probably live with for a while," Yatom said, adding that a way of dealing with the issue would be "accelerating the gas supply from the Tamar and Leviathan sites, thus speeding the arrival of gas from those locations into power stations and reducing our need for Egyptian gas."

Israel's Tamar field, to which Yatom referred, is said to contain about 8 trillion cubic meters of gas. In December, gas exploration companies led by U.S.-based Noble Energy announced that another deposit in Israeli waters, Leviathan, contained some 16 trillion cubic meters.

Also speaking on Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that "the lack of regional stability is probably going to continues in the foreseeable future," adding that Israel "must achieve self-sufficiency in its energy needs."