Suez Canal Pipeline AttackedPosted: February 5, 2011
Unknown attackers have blown up a pipeline that runs through El-Arish area of Egypt’s north Sinai area and supplies gas to Jordan and Israel, according to Egypt’s state television.
The explosive material was placed inside or adjacent to the control station of the gas supply line. There were no immediate reports of any casualties as a result of the blast.
“Saboteurs took advantage of the security situation and blew up the gas pipeline,” a state television correspondent reported, saying there was a big explosion.
State TV quoted an official as saying that the “situation is very dangerous and explosions were continuing from one spot to another” along the pipeline.
Forbes reports that Egypt has been forced to cut off gas supplies to Israel and Jordan.
There were conflicting reports out of Egypt as to the cause of the explosion, with the state-run Middle East News Agency saying the work was done by “subversive elements.” Oil Minister Samah Fahmy reportedly said it could take up to two weeks to repair the damage.
The pipeline is the third most strategically important piece of energy infrastructure in Egypt after the Suez Canal and the Sumed Pipeline. But it is the most important one to Israel, delivering 40% of Israeli natural gas supplies. The Israeli government said this afternoon that it did not expect any interruption of electricity supplies as the country has gas in storage and can also switch to other fuels like oil and diesel. Israel started receiving gas from the pipeline in 2008.
Assuming for a moment that this was not an accident, it represents a serious escalation of the crisis in Egypt.
Jitters about the impact of the unrest on the economy of both Egypt and the region were not eased yesterday when an explosion ripped through a gas terminal in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula, setting off a massive fire that was contained by shutting off the flow of gas to neighbouring Jordan and Israel. Supplies are expected to be hit for at least a week. While Israel has other sources of power, and Jordan is believed to have substantial reserves, the sense that Egypt’s fragility can reach beyond its borders will add to the anxieties.
Traders are worried that the unrest might spread to oil-producing countries in the region and even affect shipments through the Suez Canal. Egypt is not a major oil producer, but it controls the canal and a nearby pipeline. Together these carry about two million barrels of oil a day from the Middle East to customers in Europe and the United States. Several large Egyptian refineries near the canal have been the site of recent protests.
We can use this as a live blog to discuss the situation in Egypt. I’ll continue to add updates if I learn any more about the cause of the pipeline blast.