The US-Israeli partners in the offshore Leviathan field announced Monday that initial drilling results found indications of natural gas at the site.

“A preliminary evaluation of the data obtained during the drill shows that the main target includes sands containing natural gas,” the Israeli partner companies Delek Drilling, Avner Oil Exploration and Ratio Oil Exploration said in a statement. “However, at this point we are only talking about initial indications, and we cannot determine the quantity, quality or economic viability of the prospect.”

US-based Noble Energy operates Leviathan, off the Israeli coast, with a 39.66 percent working interest. Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration own 22.67% each, and Ratio Oil Exploration has the remaining 15%.

The report pushed up energy shares on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Avner Oil Exploration rose 5.1%, Ratio Oil Exploration advanced 4.31%, and Delek Drilling added 1.42%.

“The well has penetrated the first interval in the primary objective,” Noble Energy said in a statement. “Based on logs taken while drilling, it is apparent that natural gas has been encountered in this interval.”

Noble Energy said it was continuing to drill and would conduct more tests, after which a full evaluation will be undertaken. Results are expected in about two weeks, it said.

Total gross resources for Leviathan are estimated at 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, with a geological chance of success of 50%. If the estimate materializes, Leviathan would be the largest gas field in Israel, following the discovery of the offshore Tamar site by Noble Energy almost two years ago. Noble says Tamar has an estimated at 8.4 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas.

“The report of initial indications of natural gas significantly increases the probability of 50% for a commercial discovery at the Leviathan site,” said Dan Halman, CEO of Halman Aldubi Mutual Funds. “However, only in two weeks will it be clearer if it is a commercial discovery.”

Separately, Givot Olam Oil Exploration on Monday presented an independent evaluation report including an economic analysis of the Meged oil reserve that estimated the field potentially contains more than 1 billion barrels of oil.

“The analysis demonstrates that based on the production profiles provided to us by Givot, the development of the Meged core area has robust economics under both the scenarios examined, and it could be a highly profitable venture if the predicted well-production volumes prove to be achievable and sustainable,” said Nick Wright, a geologist and oil and gas consultant at Greens and Associates, who prepared and presented the report at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Monday.

The Meged core area comprises 50 square meters with a potential of 16 production wells, two of which are planned for 2012, in addition to Meged 5, which is already drilled.

An analysis of the economic potential, which assumed a price of $70 per barrel of oil and a capitalization ratio of 10% for the holders of Givot partnership units of the oil produced at 16 wells, calculated a pretax value of $830 million for the Meged reserve.

“The estimate is that there is 1 billion of barrels of oil in place, with a chance of recovering 60% or 600 million barrels of oil from the entire Meged field,” Wright said.

According to the report, there is a 50% chance of recoverable oil of 10.5 million barrels at the Meged 5, Meged 6 and Meged 7 wells. Givot Olam expects commercial production at the Meged core area to begin in 2012.

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