Geopolitics, Gas and Grand Ambitions: The Outlook for Petroleum Production in the East Mediterranean

November 2016


News of mass migration, terrorism and civil war in the Mediterranean has overshadowed another potentially game-changing development in the region, namely the consequences of major natural gas discoveries. Over the past decade, vast offshore hydrocarbon reserves have been uncovered off the coasts of Israel, Cyprus and Egypt, prompting hopes of a gas bonanza in the so-called Levant Basin. This paper assesses the outlook for petroleum production and exports in the East Mediterranean, by looking at five dimensions of the question: geopolitics, legal issues, economics, environmental concerns and technological feasibility. Overall, it finds that the outlook for the oil and gas industry of the East Mediterranean is clouded by the general volatility of the region (i.e. the Syrian civil war, the disputed status of Cyprus and the Israel-Palestine conflict), long-running maritime border disputes, relatively low global commodity prices, along with the technological difficulties and high costs of operating in offshore environments. In the long term, the future of the Levant Basin is further undermined by strategic concerns about anthropogenic climate change in a region exceptionally vulnerable to the socioeconomic consequences of global warming.

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