Israel starts exporting natural gas to Egypt

JERUSALEM, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Israel began exporting natural gas to Egypt on Wednesday, commencing one of the most important deals to have been signed by the neighbors since they made peace decades ago.

Under the landmark deal, a private firm in Egypt, Dolphinus Holdings, will purchase 85 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas, worth an estimated $19.5 billion, from Israel’s Leviathan and Tamar offshore fields over 15 years.

Yossi Abu, CEO of Israel’s Delek Drilling, one of the partners in Leviathan and Tamar, said the arrangement “marks a new era in the Middle East energy sector”.

The gas is being supplied via a subsea pipeline connecting Israel and Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

Israeli officials have called the export of gas the most significant deal to emerge since the countries signed a historic peace treaty in 1979. (Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Tova Cohen)