Egypt-Israel pipeline intact after blast

Disrupted: the flow of gas from Egypt to Israel after saboteurs blew up a metering station

Ampal-American Israel Corporation said East Mediterranean Gas’ (EMG) pipeline from El-Arish, Egypt, to Ashkelon, Israel, is intact and was not damaged by an explosion at a gas metering station in Egypt.

Ampal, a holding company, has a 12.5% interest in EMG.

"The supply of gas to EMG, and therefore to EMG's Israeli clients, has been interrupted by a fire in a facility not related to EMG," Ampal said in a statement. "The gas supply to EMG is expected to resume within a week."

According to EMG, a metering station in a gas pipeline from Egypt to Jordan caught fire. The station is owned and operated by Egyptian gas transport company Gasco, which is a subsidiary of EGAS, the Egyptian national gas company and EMG's gas supplier.

Gasco's station is not a part of the EMG pipeline system and is 30 kilometres from EMG's site.

"Ampal has been advised by EMG, that due to the fire, EGAS has initiated its standard shut down procedure affecting gas transportation throughout the Sinai Peninsula, including Gasco's pipeline to EMG's site, in order to suffocate the fire in Gasco's Station and cool down the system," the statement said.

The announcement comes after Egyptian state television reported that saboteurs attacked a pipeline, disrupting flows to Israel and Jordan.

A security source in North Sinai said "foreign elements" targeted the branch of the pipe that supplies Jordan.

A security source said the Egyptian army closed the main source of gas supplying the pipeline and were controlling the fire. Television footage showed a tower of flame at the scene.

A Jordanian energy source told Reuters the kingdom had switched power stations to burning fuel oil and diesel as a precaution, after the cut-off of the Egyptian gas supplies that help generate most of Jordan's electricity.

Israel's National Infrastructure Ministry said it also had alternative energy sources available and anticipated no disruption to domestic electricity production. "The Israeli economy should prepare for a number of days without the supply of natural gas from Egypt," the ministry said in a statement.

The attack happened as demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak entered their twelfth day, with no sign of an end to the confrontation which has pitted the 82-year-old leader against thousands of anti-government protesters.

The SITE intelligence group, which monitors al Qaeda and other Islamist websites, said some groups had been urging Islamic militants to attack the pipeline to Israel.

"Jihadists suggested that Muslims in Sinai take advantage of Egyptian unrest and strike the Arish-Ashkelon gas pipeline, arguing that it would have a major impact on Israel," SITE said.

Israel gets 40% of its natural gas from Egypt, a deal built on their landmark 1979 peace accord..

Israel's Yam Tetis field off coastal Ashkelon was prepared to help compensate for the loss of Egyptian gas, the National Infrastructure Ministry said in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that his country planned to draw increasingly on its own gas fields.

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