November 20, 2023
The Belgian dredging group Jan De Nul will investigate the construction of a submarine cable in the Mediterranean Sea together with the Egyptian power grid operator EETC. The connection should make it possible to bring green energy from Egypt to Europe.
Egypt has significant reserves of oil and gas, but in recent years energy companies and investors have been blocking the country for green energy contracts. Just like sufficient space, there are good conditions to generate electricity with solar panels and wind turbines. Egypt sees green energy as a future export sector.
If the project is realized, it will involve an investment of several billion euros.
Director Jan De Nul Offshore Energy
There are already many projects on the table to convert green energy into green hydrogen that can then be exported by ship. The Belgian maritime contractor DEME is involved in one of those projects. Competitor Jan De Nul, on the other hand, sees opportunities to supply green energy directly to Europe via cables.
Jan De Nul has signed an agreement with the state-owned Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC) to investigate the construction of such a submarine export cable through the Mediterranean Sea. This concerns a study into an interconnector that can transport 2 gigawatts (comparable to the capacity of two nuclear reactors) of power.
Jan De Nul’s experience with laying cables on the seabed played an important role in this contract, says Philippe Hutse, Director of OffShore Energy at Jan De Nul. ‘With our newly ordered vessel Fleeming Jenkin, we have a cable-laying vessel that is twice as large as existing vessels.’
The challenges of laying an export cable from Egypt are great. This involves a route of approximately 1,000 kilometers, which is more than the longest existing cable (700 km) between the UK and Denmark. What is extra challenging is that the seabed is up to 3,000 meters deep in some places, Hutse explains.
Although the process is one of the things that still needs to be thoroughly examined in the research phase. It has not yet been determined which country Egypt will be connected to. “Greece or Italy are the most obvious options, but that still needs to be studied,” says Hutse.
From contractor to developer
It is remarkable that Jan De Nul is not only asked to lay the cable. ‘If the study is positive, the intention is for us as a developer to participate in the project for the production and export of green electricity. That is a much broader role than that of contractor,” says Hutse. Jan De Nul will then co-invest in a consortium.
The total project will therefore consist of solar and wind farms, good for a capacity of 3 gigawatts, and an export cable to transport most of that production to Europe. All together this involves an investment amounting to several billion euros, Hutse indicates.
If all goes well, the project would be realized from 2027. But now we are only at the beginning: the study must turn out well. It is also important to watch whether there is an influence from similar projects previously announced in Egypt and its neighboring countries.
A few years ago there was a plan to electrically connect Egypt with Greece via a stopover in Cyprus, a project in which the Belgian grid operator Elia was also asked for advice. This was followed by two other plans by consortia of the Greek companies Gregy and GAP. And then there are plans for a direct cable to Italy. The Egyptian grid company EETC started a study on this with the Norwegian Scatec in May.
Jan De Nul
The Belgian family business focuses worldwide on dredging work, installation works for energy at sea and civil construction works.
The offshore energy division has 16 ships that carry out work from the US to Abu Dhabi to Taiwan.
Turnover (first half of 2023): 1.4 billion euros.
Gross operating profit (EBITDA): EUR 300 million.
Order book: 9 billion euros.