A roundtable discussion among natural gas industry stakeholders on Sunday became
heated as the parties argued over the benefits and risks of exporting the
country’s new resource.
Environmental Protection Ministry
director-general Alona Shefer-Karo argued that the country must wait to
determine export amounts until it secures more concrete numbers on gas supply
Her colleagues in the industry said that would deter
investors – and therefore development – in the offshore natural gas
Shefer-Karo and her colleagues were participating in a dialogue
about natural gas for export and for local use at the 2012 Israel Energy and
Business Convention in Kfar Maccabiah, Ramat Gan.
“We should see exactly
what the domestic market demands are, not estimates and manipulations,”
Shefer-Karo said. “I’m not sure that everyone in this room understands that this
is Israel’s only resource.”
Criticizing the recent report of the Zemach
Committee, which recommended that no more than 500 billion cubic meters of gas
be exported, Shefer- Karo said that the document exaggerated the supply of
natural gas by 150 billion cubic meters. On Sunday morning, she had written a
letter to Energy and Water Ministry director-general and committee head Shaul
Zemach, demanding that the committee reconvene to reconsider its conclusions,
By delaying decisions and waiting to know the exact amount of
natural gas that will appear above ground, the country will lose investors
interested in developing the industry here, argued Maj.- Gen. (res.) Amos Yaron,
CEO of Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Co.
“Unfortunately, the Israeli government
does not have the money to invest itself in developing these fields,” Yaron
said. “We need to find different deals, the best deal possible, how to
take this resource and make it one that can benefit Israel as a
The economy has already wasted NIS 20 billion in delaying getting
the natural gas on tap, a mistake that the government cannot afford to repeat,
according to Yossi Abu, CEO of Delek Drilling. Alongside Noble Energy, Delek
Drilling and its subsidiary Avner Oil and Gas have the most significant stakes
in the Tamar and Leviathan reservoirs off the coast.
“A country cannot
allow herself to have this lack of governance and leadership even if the report
is not liked by a certain ministry,” Abu said. “This uncertainty is killing the
market. There won’t be a single investment in this market if there will
Abu stressed that he was calling upon the prime minister
to make sure the report’s recommendations are implemented, after the committee
took an entire year to issue them. That being said, while export is crucial to
the industry, so too are developing domestic needs, he said. For example,
injecting more natural gas into the Israel transportation industry and
encouraging vehicles running on compressed natural gas is vital, Abu explained.
Even if 50 percent of the transportation sector were to run on natural gas,
however, the amount required would still be limited, he added.
“We are of
course committed to the domestic market, but in order to supply to that market
we need to develop more infrastructure,” Abu said.
Bini Zomer, director
of corporate affairs at Noble Energy, agreed that despite the great need for
natural gas in Israel, waiting months or years to determine exact export
quantities could cost the country its entire gas industry.
that we don’t need to limit the quantity that should be exported, but I think
what [the committee] did was make a decision that leaves enough gas for domestic
use and also allows for an export industry to be set up,” Zomer said.
response to the three men, two of whom – Abu and Yoram – had raised their voices
during their arguments, Shefer-Karo retorted, “That’s three of you against one
“Let’s stop with these slogans,” she said. “Israel is not a
superpower – we’re not a gas superpower.”
In a direct response to Shefer-
Karo, but during a later panel discussion, Ron Chaimovski, chairman of Israel
Natural Gas Lines, argued that “independence is not [just] a slogan and it is
not something we can live without.”
“It is a necessity and it is a
necessity that can be achieved,” Chaimovski said.
The heated debate
continued to pervade other roundtables and speeches throughout the day, and
during the last panel of the afternoon, Maj.-Gen. (res) Yom-Tov Samia of
ICGreen Energy echoed Shefer- Karo’s sentiments.
“Israel should not
export even a single billion cubic meter of natural gas,” Samia said. “In Israel
there is natural gas in an uncertain quantity and most of the forecasts don’t
With export also comes the challenge of deciding how to
transport the gas to buyers.
Typically the gas is transformed into
liquefied natural gas, something that can be done on an on-shore facility or on
a floating unit.
Yaron acknowledged that with such a facility on-shore in
Israel, “of course the landscape will be hurt,” but said that the country could
lose even more by failing to develop such a facility.
eyes, there was absolutely no reason to “run ahead” with building such a
production site on Israeli land.
“Israel is small, there is limited
space,” she said. “What we’re saying is quite simple.”