Is­rael finds vast gas fields — but can it cel­e­brate?

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ANSHEL PFEFFER

THE DIS­COV­ERY of more gi­ant nat­u­ral gas fields off Is­rael’s Mediter­ranean coast has high­lighted both the po­ten­tial for fur­ther off­shore en­ergy ex­plo­ration and the prob­lems un­der­ly­ing Is­rael’s nat­u­ral gas in­dus­try.

The ini­tial ex­cite­ment that the Yis­ramco-Modiin part­ner­ship had found po­ten­tial gas re­serves of around 250bcm (bil­lion cu­bic me­tres) 60 miles west of Tel Aviv — one of the three largest fields dis­cov­ered in Is­rael’s eco­nomic wa­ters — was quickly tem­pered by the de­tails. The Daniel East and Daniel West are ac­tu­ally 10 sep­a­rate de­posits, only two of which, with a com­bined po­ten­tial of around 120bcm, may be com­mer­cially vi­able.

The dis­cov­ery has bol­stered the gov- ern­ment’s claims that fur­ther off­shore ex­plo­ration will yield more en­ergy re­sources. How­ever, plum­met­ing global en­ergy prices and the new na­tional frame­work for the gas in­dus­try makes it more dif­fi­cult for com­peti­tors of the Tshuva-No­bel En­ergy group — which hold the li­censes for the largest proven fields — to ac­cess the lo­cal mar­ket.

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and En­ergy Min­is­ter Yu­val Steinitz ar­gued force­fully that the frame­work was nec­es­sary to en­sure “the gas doesn’t stay in the ground”, to spur fur­ther ex­plo­ration and en­hance Is­rael’s en­ergy in­de­pen­dence and rev­enues.

The new dis­cov­er­ies give hope that this can hap­pen, but it will take more large, vi­able finds and higher prices to en­sure that out­come. Is­rael’s en­ergy for­tunes re­main in the bal­ance.

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