To maintain the needs of the Israeli economy, the country will need to export a
portion of the natural gas in its Mediterranean Sea reservoirs, Energy and Water
Minister Uzi Landau said Monday.
He spoke at a conference called Energy
as a Platform for Regional Development, held at Netanya Academic
Although the country should make sure to preserve 25 years worth
of gas for its own citizens (there are about 40 years worth in the reservoirs
thus far in the Tamar and Leviathan basins), several players should ideally join
the exploration and production efforts to drill and export the remaining gas to
other countries, Landau said.
Financially, natural-gas production in
Israel “is going to work” only by exporting some of it, he said, but the export
will only occur on a limited scale.
“The State of Israel is not a gas
superpower – we are not Qatar,” Landau said. “There is a possibility for export,
but we cannot compete with giants in the energy economy.”
Israel is not a
gas superpower, and exporting gas would be a bad idea for the country, Chief
Scientist Shlomo Wald said Sunday at a conference on energy security held in Sde
Because Israel only has 1,200 billion cubic meters of gas, it will
“never be a player in the global market” and should instead keep the gas for its
own needs for the next half century, he said.
Having this gas for Israel
would give it the energy independence that it needs for the foreseeable future,
Dr. Ephraim Sneh, chairman of Netanya Academic College’s S.
Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue, agreed with Landau on the need to
export gas, saying Israel’s newfound gas reserves gives it the ability to build
strategic political partnerships.
“Europe needs gas, and it tries to look
for sources that are not Russia, not Iran,” he said, “and perhaps in the future
it is going to look for sources that are not necessarily Turkish. Therefore it’s
not just a discovery of gas. It can change the regional status of Israel, create
new partners and connect us better to the European Union.”
The gas could
also have a strategic impact much closer to home, in neighboring Jordan, which
could benefit significantly from this source after losing the Egyptian gas
supply as an incoming regular source, Sneh said.
Shermine Dajani, CEO of
Jordan’s PanMed Energy consultancy firm, said: “With continued interruption 13
times of the Arab gas pipeline, Jordan was forced to use more heavy fuel oil.
The cost of ongoing unreliability of Egyptian gas will cost Jordan $2.4 billion
by end of 2012.”
Jordan is currently investigating a number of options to
solve this problem, including importing LNG (liquefied natural gas) tankers off
the coast of Aqaba, perhaps from Qatar, he said.
In addition to potential
Jordanian customers, once the Palestinian Authority builds the power plants it
intends to construct, the government there could purchase natural gas for their
plants from Israel, Sneh said.
Dr. Brenda Shaffer, an expert on energy
policy and management in the School of Political Science at the University of
Haifa, warned that “with all the political advantages of gas there are also
Countries producing gas tend to be involved in conflicts,
and expertise in gas or oil does not protect a country from aggression, she
For example, Shaffer said, Libya was not immune to NATO attacks,
and Azerbaijan has not received back its lost territories.
might be great for the economy and the environment, Israel must remember not to
compare itself to a gas production giant like Russia, she said.
must make sure that it maintains an ample supply from its reservoirs for its own
security needs, Shaffer said.
“We have to be a little more modest about
how much political impact Israeli gas will have,” she said.
natural gas also does not necessarily amount to equal interdependence among
countries, Shaffer said, stressing that while Israel had great dependence on
Egypt in the gas deal, Egypt had little dependence on Israel as a
“I differ with Brenda [Shaffer] only on one thing: that it does
not create mutual dependence. I think it does,” said Dr. Nimrod Novik, chairman
of the Economic Cooperation Foundation and former vice president of the Merhav
Group, which was responsible for establishing the gas pipeline between Egypt and
“I always believed that the day will come – because neither
[Jordan] nor the Palestinians are going anywhere – where we will have
cross-border cooperation in a much more substantial way,” he said. “And I even
believe that one day we will create in this region that which oil and coal
created in Europe. The first seeds of regional cooperation will be in this
region – tourism, water and energy.”