Israel’s Natural Gas Finds Win the World’s Notice
Ken Silverstein, Forbes, April 11, 2013
Israel’s visiting guest this week is not a head-of-state. But he is just as important. It is Nobel Energy’s Chief Executive Charles Davidson, whose company is working with government and business there to commercialize huge natural gas deposits.
The point of the Texas-based oil captain’s appearance is two-fold: He and his Israeli contemporaries will be celebrating the start of the country’s first natural gas discoveries that are in the Mediterranean Sea’s Tamar field, which has just begun to generate 300 million cubic feet of natural gas. Nobel says that the basin holds up to 10 trillion cubic feet. It’s a game-changer not just for Israel but potentially in the geo-political-and-economic chess game: It provides Israel with more energy security while the gas could also be exported to needy countries.
That leads to the second reason for the visit, which is whether the gas will stay mostly in Israel or whether it will head to eastern and western Europe as well as certain Middle Eastern or North African nations such as Jordan and South Sudan. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will soon decide.
English: Flag of Israel with the Mediterranean sea in the background, in Rishon LeZion. עברית: דגל ישראל בראשון לציון (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Israel’s visiting guest this week is not a head-of-state. But he is potentially just as important. Its Nobel Energy’s Chief Executive Charles Davidson, whose company is working the Jewish State to commercialize huge natural gas deposits.That leads to the second reason for the visit, which is whether the gas will stay mostly in Israel or whether it will head to both eastern and western Europe as well as certain Middle Eastern or North African nations such as Jordan and Sudan. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will soon decide.
Nobel, which invested $3 billion in 2009 in the Tamar field and which is partnering with Israeli-based Delek Energy, also has other projects: The Leviathan basin, which is 80 miles off the shores of Haifa, Israel and which could hold as much as 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that would last 100 years. There, production could begin in 2017, which could help insulate the country from fluctuating fuel prices.
“The successful Leviathan #4 well has provided us with additional information to improve our knowledge of this enormous resource,” says Nobel’s Davidson, in a press release. His company is working with the Australian oil company, Woodside Petroleum, to drill in that region. Woodside would pay $2.3 billion for such rights. French Oil company, Total, is also expressing interests in similar developments.
This newfound wealth is helping to build friendships. Russia has long been the major supplier of natural gas to all of Europe, providing about 23 percent of the continent’s needs. Russia holds about 27.5 percent of world’s gas supply, says the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But now that there is competition out there, Europe could look to Israel to feed its energy appetite, or it could go to the United States that is evaluating whether to ship more of its natural gas finds in the form of liquefied natural gas.
That’s why Russia is now cozying up to Israel, as it wants to distribute that potential natural gas to its partners, says a story appearing in the Commentator. The good news here is that this would pry loose the eastern superpower from Iran and its vast oil wealth.
The same news story goes on to say that Israel, too, could be a rich vein for oil. It says that promises of oil exist far off of its Mediterranean shores but that the country is ready to develop its shale oil, or those supplies that are locked up in rock formations deep underground. The same fracking techniques used to discover shale oil and gas supplies in the United States would also be used in Israel’s Shelfla Basin that is east of Jerusalem.
The World Energy Council estimates that the region holds tight oil deposits to the tune of 250 billion barrels. To add some perspective, if the oil is actually brought to market, it would make Israel the third biggest host to such riches, behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, says the Commentator.
Oil will have to wait. Natural gas is more imminent. And so the immediate question is whether Israel will take this resource and use it to fuel its own electricity needs that are now dependent on oil and coal or whether it will sell a share of it into Europe and those friendly Arab countries.
“If it acts correctly, levelheadedly and responsibly, Israel can enjoy not only the benefit of using the gas, but it can also turn into a gas supplier in the Mediterranean region,” says Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau, in a statement. “The large reserves of natural gas will enable Israel’s citizens to enjoy the benefit of clean and inexpensive electricity, as well as the expected profits for the state.”
The budding partnership between Israel and Nobel Energy is off to a good start and it appears that the goodwill is attracting other private investors. That could all lead to a secure energy future and cleaner air for Israel as well as a firmer place for it in the global economic community.