Israel eyes pipeline to export natural gas to southern Europe

Israel initially looked to export most of its reserves in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG) but after potential Australian investor Woodside Petroleum, an LNG specialist, bailed out of a joint development deal with Israel's Delek and U.S. Noble Energy earlier this year, its LNG export outlook diminished.

Another potential export route, via a pipeline to Turkey, has also been dealt a blow because of a deepening political rift over Israel's Gaza offensive.

"What looks ... possible to carry out is a pipeline to our neighbours in the EU, like Cyprus and Greece, and from Greece to all southern Europe, to Italy, maybe other countries," Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told journalists during a visit to Lithuania, where the government has been considering the potential of future Israeli LNG imports.

The Israeli minister said the planned pipeline was estimated to cost $20-$30 billion.

"It's a huge project, and we are only in the beginning. But (the) first impression is that the right way to export this gas to Europe is through Cyprus and Greece," he added.

Israel has also been negotiating a deal to supply natural gas from its vast Leviathan field to its Arab neighbour Jordan under a 15-year, $15 billion agreement.

The Leviathan field, expected to come online by 2018, is estimated to have enough gas to meet Europe's needs for a year.

Despite Lieberman's preference for a pipeline to southern Europe, LNG is not fully off the table yet.

EU member Cyprus has also found gas offshore and proposed to export its reserves with Israel via a joint LNG export terminal on its shores. Cyprus has so far not discovered enough gas to warrant an LNG export terminal using only its own reserves.

There are also talks to pump Israeli gas to Egypt, from where it could be liquefied and exported as LNG via existing infrastructure. (Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Writing by Nerijus Adomaitis; Editing by Henning Gloystein and David Evans)