Exports from the Leviathan reservoir will likely occur through an offshore, floating liquefied natural gas platform rather than via onshore options previously considered, the prospective Australian partners announced on Wednesday.
“We thought it would be an onshore based facility for LNG and it has now moved to an offshore facility,” Woodside CEO Peter Coleman said early Wednesday morning, during a webcast press conference in Perth about the company’s 2013 financial results.
After over a year of discussions, Australian drilling giant Woodside Energy signed a nonbinding agreement with the Leviathan gas reservoir partners to acquire 25 percent of the basin for roughly $2.71 billion. The memorandum of understanding, which is expected to become a fully termed agreement on March 27, builds upon a December 2012 agreement in principle in which the parties had called for Woodside to acquire a 30% stake of the reservoir.
With ample hydrocarbon supplies for decades of domestic use and export, Leviathan is estimated to contain about 535 billion cubic meters (18.9 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas and 34.1 million barrels of liquid condensate.
Ahead of Woodside’s probable entrance as a partner in March, Noble Energy holds 39.66% of the Leviathan field, Delek Group subsidiaries Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration each have 22.67% and Ratio Oil Exploration owns 15%. Assuming the final agreement is concluded as planned, Woodside will hold 25%, Noble Energy will own 30%, Delek Drilling and Avner will each own 16.93% and Ratio will hold 11.12%.
Woodside would operate any liquefied natural gas development for the reservoir, but Noble Energy would remain the exploration operator, according to the recent memorandum of understanding.
Although an export policy was approved by the government on June 23, 2013, capping exports at 40%, the question has long remained to whom the Leviathan partners will export the gas.
Partners of the adjacent Tamar reservoir signed an export agreement with two Jordanian companies on Wednesday, and in early January the Leviathan partners signed another agreement to sell gas from Leviathan to the owners of a future Palestinian power plant.
For exports outside of the immediate neighborhood, however, experts have debated whether a pipeline to Turkey, an LNG plant onshore in Israel, a shared LNG plant onshore in Cyprus, a floating LNG plant, or some combination of these options would make the most sense. Through the Turkish pipeline, the gas could reach European buyers, while through an LNG plant, the hope would be to reach the Asian market.
“The good thing about Leviathan over the past 15 months since we’ve been in negotiations with the joint ventures is really what I would say the expansion of the option of exports out of Leviathan,” Coleman said. “The first part of that is really getting clarity from the Israeli government with respect to how much can be exported, and that clarity is now in place.”
Coleman made clear that a number of options continue to be discussed and explored, among them pipelines to Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan and Egypt.
“All of those things are in play at the moment,” he said. “What I’d say is that they’re all moving in parallel.”
While the partners are moving forward on the pipeline options, Coleman emphasized that at the same time, they are working actively to develop the LNG options, in particular the floating LNG choice.
“The domestic gas project will actually have a floating gas production facility, and that facility will have the ability to export gas by a pipeline,” he said.