The coastal area of Gaza is home to the Gaza Marine natural gas field, which was discovered by British Gas in 1999. Situated 20 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza at a depth of 375 miles, the field is estimated to contain up to 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This natural gas reserve is calculated to have 35 billion cubic meters, making it larger than Israel's Yam Tethys maritime gas field. Despite its substantial potential, the development of this gas field has faced significant hindrances due to political disputes.
Israel has given preliminary approval for the field's development, set to take place in 2023, subject to security coordination with the Palestinian Authority and neighboring Egypt. The gas reserves in the Gaza Marine field are seen as a potential economic resource for the Palestinian territories, holding an estimated net value of $4.592 billion, which could significantly impact the region's economy.
Development of Offshore Gas Reserves
The international community has shown keen interest in the development of these offshore natural gas fields, with particular attention from the United States aimed at revitalizing the Palestinian economy around these resources. However, the development of the gas field has been impeded by political disputes, leading to accusations that Israel's military actions are aimed at depopulating Gaza, with some observers characterizing these actions as meeting the "legal definition of genocide."
The conflict between Israel and Palestine has deep historical roots, influenced by the long-standing territorial and statehood aspirations of both parties. The field was initially discovered in 2000 by BG Group and is estimated to contain more than 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
The Palestinian Authority was granted the right to exercise sovereignty over its own maritime territory by the Oslo Accords in 1995. Following the findings of the offshore natural gas, the Palestinian Authority granted the international consortium BG a 25-year, 90% stake in a license to explore, develop any discovered fields, and install the required infrastructure, marking a significant step towards the potential development of the field.
However, the practical realization of these rights has been impeded by various political and historical factors, including the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, as well as the discovery of major gas fields in Israel's economic waters in 2009 and 2010, which made Israel an improbable customer for Palestinian gas. Access to the gas fields and their resources has been further complicated by maritime law and the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, with Israeli forces preventing physical access to the offshore region.
The Gaza Marine natural gas field has the potential to significantly impact the Palestinian economy and regional geopolitics. However, its development has been hindered by complex political and historical factors that have not only affected economic potential but have also been entangled in the broader conflict between Israel and Palestine.