The diversification provided by new pipeline projects will be the key to ensuring the security of gas supplies to Europe says a new report by Standard & Poor's rating services.
As Europe's gas imports are expected to double in the next 20 years to 500 billion cubic metres a year construction of new pipelines will be essential to ensure access to new gas producing regions such as the Caspian Sea as well as the Middle East in the longer term.
Algeria already exports 95 per cent of its gas to Europe and is one of the continent's three main suppliers besides Russia and Norway. Planned pipeline projects from North Africa include the Medgaz and Galsi projects with the latter due to connect Algeria to the North of Italy via Sardinia.
European Union funds have been allocated for construction of the $1.5 billion Medgaz, 200 kilometre sub-sea gas pipeline to connect Beni Saf in Algeria with Almeira in Spain.
The pipeline due to be completed in 2009 will pump gas from Algeria's Sonatrach and will be the second pipeline connecting the two countries after the Maghreb-Europe pipeline that runs via Morocco.
New routes are also in the planning stage. Last year, Petroleum ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey decided to develop a gas pipeline from the Jordanian-Syrian border through Syria and on to Turkey.
The pipeline now runs from El-Arish on the Mediterranean coast to Taba in south Sinai. It then proceeds under the Red Sea to Aqaba where it is being extended 325 kilometres to Homs in central Syria. The plan is to extend it to Kilis in southern Turkey. Eventually the strategic aim is to link the pipeline into the Nabucco project which aims to bring Caspian gas supplies through Turkey and the Balkans to Austria.
Eventually Europe could receive gas from Palestine as well via Egypt from the Gaza Marine gas field. The field is due to be developed by British Gas and the Greek Consolidated Contractors Group at a cost of $500 billion.
Europe's consumption of liquefied natural gas from the Middle East is also expected to soar in the next few years. According to the International Energy Agency about half the export of all gas will relate to LNG by 2030 compared to about 30 per cent at present.
Supplies are relatively close at hand. Also important is the prediction by experts that Egypt's reserves are likely to more than double to some 190 trillion cubic feet within five years allowing for a substantial increase in exports.
Egypt has moved rapidly to exploit its gas with European markets the focus of attention. The result is that the country became a net exporter of gas in 2004 and is now ranked as the world's sixth largest liquefied natural gas LNG supplier. Four LNG processing trains have been established, two at Idku near Alexandria and two at Damietta north west of Port Said and more are being considered.