Natural Gas Production Growing in Israel

This week energy exploration companies encouraged the Israeli government to allow them to export natural gas from recently discovered reserves or risk harming the country's fast-developing gas industry.

Israel has discovered some of the world's largest offshore reserves, setting the stage for huge gas production figures in the future. The Israeli government has formed a committee to decide how best to allocate these new resources while safeguarding Israel's energy independence; they would like to secure up to 50 years of reserves before allowing exports.

Countries like Bangladesh and Egypt have found themselves in similar situations, but have chosen not to promote gas exports and, in turn, hurt their industries.

"We think there is a really compelling case for natural gas exports," said Lawson Freeman, vice president for the Eastern Mediterranean at Noble Energy, which leads a number of U.S.-Israeli exploration groups off the Israeli coast.

In the past two years, Noble and its Israeli partners discovered the Tamar field, where production from its 9 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas is set to begin in 2013, and the Leviathan prospect, which is nearly twice as big and due to be online around 2017.

Tamar, Freeman said, can meet Israel's energy needs for the next 20 years.

Should the government allow significant gas exports, it would draw new players and encourage further exploration, Freeman said.

Ohad Marani, CEO of ILD Energy, which is exploring in the eastern Mediterranean, said that should it choose to export via a few floating LNG terminals, Israel could sell 15 to 20 billion cubic meters each year, worth about $4 billion.