The affected terminal and pipeline were shut down and it will probably take a week to repair. This will adversely affect Jordan, which is highly reliant on the natural gas supplied by that pipeline.
The state-run Middle East News Agency said the stoppage was to limit damage caused by an explosion carried out by “subversive elements,” while the Oil Ministry said a gas leak led to a fire. Official Egyptian television reported that the incident in El Arish in the northern Sinai desert was an act of “terror” carried out by “foreign hands.”Terrorist groups have reportedly contemplated attacks on the El-Arish-Ashkelon line following the weeks of rioting and demonstrations in Egypt.
There were no casualties and the fire is under control, the Oil Ministry said in a statement. Flames and smoke billowed into the sky in the area of the pipeline, footage from the Al Arabiya network showed.
The incident adds tension as hundreds of thousands of protesters have been demonstrating in Cairo and other cities for more than 10 days, calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. He has warned that an early departure for him would leave Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, in chaos.
Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure said in a statement that it doesn’t foresee any interruptions to the country’s electricity supply. About 40 percent of gas consumed in Israel is imported from Egypt.
The incident occurred on a part of the natural-gas network before it divides to Jordan or Israel, Marwan Bqaeen, head of the natural-gas unit at the Jordanian Energy Ministry, said in a telephone interview. The stoppage will halt Egyptian gas exports to Jordan for about a week, Petra news agency reported, citing Ghaleb al-Maabira, general director of Jordan’s state electricity company.
Egypt has halted gas supplies “as a safety precaution,” and Jordan has “resorted to back-up fuel,” Bqaeen said. “We heard from the Egyptians that the flames were under control and will soon be put out. They will then carry out an assessment.”
Egypt has natural-gas reserves of 77 trillion cubic feet and is the main producer of the hydrocarbon in the eastern Mediterranean, according to the U.S. Energy Department. The country exported 650 billion cubic feet of gas in 2009, 30 percent by either the Arab gas pipeline to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, or to Israel through the El-Arish-Ashkelon line, according to the U.S. department’s figures.