An Egyptian pipeline carrying gas to Jordan and Israel was bombed on Monday, the 13th such attack since president Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011, witnesses said. The attack on the installation that crosses the increasingly volatile Sinai region occurred in the Massaeed area west of the Mediterranean coastal town of Al Arish, in north Sinai.
Witnesses in Al Arish told Reuters that two blasts were set off within 15 metres of each other using remote-controlled explosive devices. The bombs were planted by at least six armed men who arrived in two pickup trucks, witnesses added. Security in Sinai was relaxed after Mubarak’s fall as police presence thinned out across Egypt.
No group has claimed responsibility for the pipeline attacks. Egypt’s 20-year gas deal with Israel, signed during the Mubarak era, is unpopular with some Egyptians, with critics accusing Israel of not paying enough for the fuel.
Previous explosions sometimes have forced weeks-long shutdowns along the pipeline run by Gasco, a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS. Gasco said it had resumed pumping gas to households and industrial factories in Al Arish and began experimental pumping to Jordan and Israel last week.
The pipeline has been shut since an explosion on February 5. Egypt said in November it would tighten security along the pipeline by installing alarms and recruiting security patrols from bedouin tribesmen in the area.
The unreliability of Egyptian gas supplies have forced the Kingdom’s power plants to use costlier heavy fuel and diesel reserves, pushing the National Electric Power Company’s generation costs to 197 fils per kilowatt hour, which is over three times the rate it charges the majority of households. In the face of rising generation costs, the government unveiled a new electricity tariff system, raising rates by 9 per cent on a gradual scale.
A report issued recently by the Electricity Regulatory Commission projects the ongoing unreliability of Egyptian natural gas to cost Jordan an additional JD1.7 billion, some $2.4 billion, by the end of 2012. Egyptian gas supplies dipped from 220 million cubic feet per day in 2010 to an average of 80 million cubic feet in 2011, a drop which cost the Kingdom an additional JD1 billion and pushed the annual national energy bill to a record high JD4 billion last year.