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Israel one step closer to being energy Superpower

Israel one step closer to being energy Superpower

Huge natural gas field development clears cabinet, now goes to legislature for approval.

Israel’s discovery of massive natural gas fields off its coast has the potential to turn Israel into an energy superpower, supplying not only its own needs, but those of surrounding countries and potentially Europe.

Israel already has signed a $15 billion deal to supply natural gas to Jordan.

We covered the story of Israel’s emergence as an energy supplier in March 2013, when Israel started pumping natural gas from the Tamar field, which is not even the largest find, Yesterday the Middle East changed forever, and you didn’t know it.

This 2013 PBS reports explains:

Development of the more important and much larger Leviathan field has been stalled by domestic Israeli fighting over the terms of the deal with a consortium led by Texas-based Noble Energy.

The Israeli cabinet approved the terms, though a legislative fight still might delay things, as The Wall Street Journal reports:

Israel’s cabinet Sunday approved a regulatory framework that will allow the stalled development of its large offshore natural gas fields to resume.

The plan requires the main stakeholders, U.S.-based Noble Energy Inc. and Israel’s Delek Group Ltd., to reduce their stakes in the Tamar field, which contains an estimated 10 trillion cubic feet of gas, in order to maintain their stakes in the larger Leviathan field, which contains about 16 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The Tamar and Leviathan fields, discovered in 2009 and 2010, respectively, are worth an estimated $25 billion, according to an April report from Barclays.
The plan still needs approval from Israel’s legislature, the Knesset, where it will likely face opposition from some lawmakers who say it doesn’t do enough to ensure low gas prices and competition.

The development of Israel’s natural gas resources will mark a major step in the Middle East, one that will cement Israel’s economic independence. And also will make the gas fields targets for Iranian-backed Hezbollah in the next conflict.

In 2014 Forbes reported:

Rig owners, including Houston-based Noble Energy, are working intensively in conjunction with the IDF to ensure the security of their investment. There are private armed security forces on each platform that have radar to monitor sea traffic in the area. These radars are designed to link up with those operated by the IDF, measures that will be supplemented by increased naval patrols and UAV surveillance….

Even with capped funding levels, however, the Israeli navy has recently signed contracts to acquire two state-of-the-art German-built MEKO class F221 frigates bound for patrol of the Mediterranean gas fields, an apparent sign that their argument has won over most doubters. The two frigates will be armed with Israeli-built Barak 8 medium-range air defense systems alongside the 76mm guns and on-board surface-to-air missile systems and are a positive step in the right direction for Israel’s maritime security needs.

In May 2015, Israel signed contracts for more ships designed to protect the fields, via Times of Israel:

Irael agreed Monday to purchase four warships from Germany to protect its offshore natural-gas drilling platforms, in a €430 million ($480 million) deal.

The deal was signed by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who is in Israel to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between the countries.

Defense Ministry Director General Maj. Gen. (Res.) Dan Harel called the nearly $480 million deal “a dramatic leap upward in the navy’s ability to protect the State of Israel’s strategic natural gas sites.”

Under the contract, Germany will provide four advanced Sa’ar-class corvettes to the Israeli navy, to be delivered over the next five years, and will finance approximately one-third of the cost of the deal with a special grant of €115 million.


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Henry Hawkins | August 17, 2015 at 11:31 am

Energy independence. We (USA) oughta try that. Good on Israel.

Sammy Finkelman | August 17, 2015 at 11:52 am

This has actually been slowed down because of attemts to re-write the contracts.

The real benefit here will likely come in a much-needed decrease in the cost of living expenses for Israelis. Utility expenses are there are generally exorbitant. If the government allows the natural gas to enter in a free market manner, it could ease the lives of many Israelis.

It is quite unlikely that Israel will be able to export this natural gas anywhere except Jordan and maybe Egypt and Africa (and the West Bank, but that’s not really exporting). Liquifaction trains (not locomatives, but LNG facilities) are extremely expensive infrastructure. There is little indication that these reserves are lucrative enough to warrant the expenditure. It also takes a very long time to build. It is delusional to think they could build a new natural gas pipeline through Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey to get to Europe. Maybe, they could get gas to Cyprus with an ocean pipeline, but Cyprus has other, bigger problems.

If the reserves are really only worth $25 billion combined, then they are nothing in comparison to others around the world. Noble Energy’s market cap alone is $15.41 billion, and that is a major decrease from what it once was. Moreover, if you believe the market knows anything, the market is not overly excited about this deal. (See NBL ticker).

Israelis have much to celebrate with this deal if they value lower domestic utility prices. (Again, that depends on whether the government allows the free market to work). Yet, Israel is still nothing like an energy superpower. It is unfortunate. Wish Israel was. It sure would deter a lot of the angry anti-Semites in Europe and elsewhere. But that thought is just a dream.

A short book was written 20 years ago about Israel discovering oil fields and the remarkable changes it brought to the region. The story included using part of the income on development and resurrection of Gaza. Ended the southern front threat and killed all argument about the false narrative of Israeli abuse of Palestinians. Just throwing it out there in case anyone knows the name of the book or the name of the author.

Rosenberg, The last Jihad. 10 years ago.