Israel, once energy poor, is expected to become a gas exporter by the end of the decade, with the Tamar field holding enough reserves to meet the country’s gas needs for decades, Reuters stated.
The discovery in 2009 led to an exploration frenzy in the Levant basin, which is shared between Israel, Cyprus and Lebanon. The uncovering of a second bigger find, Leviathan, prompted Israel to set up a natural gas wealth fund.
“Today (we begin) independence in Israeli natural gas. It is an enormous achievement for the Israeli economy and the start of a new era,” Reuters quoted Israeli billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva as saying. Tshuva is the controlling shareholder in Delek Group, one of the partners in Tamar.
According to the Israeli Water and Energy Ministry, the gas is expected to lead to a reduction in production costs for state utility Israel Electric Corp as well as a decline in the price of electricity.
The Tamar field is 36%-owned by Texas-based Noble Energy. Isramco Negev owns 28.75%, Delek Group holds 31.25% through its subsidiaries Avner Oil Exploration and Delek Drilling, and Dor Gas Exploration has a 4% stake.
The partners, who said they had invested $3 billion in developing Tamar, had estimated that the new gas supplies would save Israel’s economy. The country relies heavily on oil imports – currently 13 billion shekels ($3.6 billion) per year.
Noble chief executive Charles Davidson said bringing Tamar to production in four years was a “transformational achievement” and that the field’s partners would now work to invest in increasing piping capacity.
“Building on this success, we will work with our partners and the government to sanction the next phase of development at Tamar and the domestic phase of Leviathan,” Reuters quoted Davidson as saying.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netantyahu highlighted the achievement in a statement issued by his office.
“We are taking an important step towards independence in the energy sector. In the past decade we have promoted Israel’s gas sector and this will enhance Israel’s economy and benefit all the country’s citizens,” he said.
The Tamar field is located 90 kilometres off Israel’s northern coast and contains an estimated 10 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Development of Tamar and Leviathan is expected to make Israel less dependent on energy imports, but the country said it would also allow a significant amount of its natural gas to be exported.
A number of large deals have already been signed for Tamar, including one to supply as much as $23 billion of natural gas to Israel Electric Corp and $4 billion worth to units of conglomerate Israel Corp, Reuters said.