Last Updated: Wed Dec 29, 2010 20:11 pm (KSA) 17:11 pm (GMT)

Gas field size puts Israel as exporter: US firm

Israel's Tamar field has  an estimated capacity of 178 billion cubic meters
Israel's Tamar field has an estimated capacity of 178 billion cubic meters

A gas field offshore from Israel holds an estimated 450 billion cubic meters (16 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas, positioning the Jewish state as an exporter, Noble Energy said on Wednesday.

The new estimates, announced by the U.S. firm which has a major stake in the field, said the Leviathan gas field dwarfs Israel's next biggest offshore field, Tamar.

"Leviathan is the latest major discovery for Noble Energy and is easily the largest exploration discovery in our history," the firm's chairman Charles Davidson said in a statement.

"This discovery has the potential to position Israel as a natural gas exporting nation," added company president David Stover.

Further tests are required to discover the final estimated capacity of the Leviathan field, which lies offshore near the northern Israeli town of Haifa.

But the capacity announced on Wednesday is encouraging news for Israel, which is hoping natural gas reserves offshore could give the Jewish state energy independence and allow it to export to Europe eventually.

The Tamar field, with an estimated capacity of 178 billion cubic meters (6.3 trillion cubic feet), is not yet operational.

It has been dogged by international squabbles between Israel and neighboring nations over access, and a domestic brawl over the taxes and royalties the state can levy on the field.

Israel's sole operating field, Yam Tethys, which currently supplies about 70 percent of the country's natural gas, will be depleted within three years.

Noble Energy currently holds a 39.66 percent stake in Leviathan, along with Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration, which hold 22.67 percent each, and Ratio Oil Exploration, which holds the remaining 15 percent.

The discovery comes after a recent Cyprus and Israel signed an agreement that defined their sea border, and allowed the neighbors to forge ahead in the search for energy sources in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey however has voiced its disapproval of Cyprus's oil and gas search.
In 2008, Nicosia protested to the United Nations and European Union over what it called Turkish harassment of ships conducting exploration surveys in Cyprus's EEZ.

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