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Making Israeli natural gas attractive – in Texas
By SHARON UDASIN
03/05/2012
Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau travels to the US heartland to strengthen ties with the state.
 
As Israel’s presence in the natural- gas market grows, the country should continue to strengthen its growing ties with the State of Texas, a capital of development for the industry, according to Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau.

Landau is spending the week in Houston, where he will visit the development site for Noble Energy’s Tamar rig and meet with representatives of many companies potentially interested in participating in Israel’s natural-gas industry.

He was to speak at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) on Thursday and deliver a public lecture at the Baker Institute and the World Affairs Council, addressing the geopolitics of gas discoveries in the Middle East.

“We are here just because we need to learn,” Landau told The Jerusalem Post in a phone interview from Houston on Tuesday.

“We are here also to make our case that Israel is a place that is attractive for exploration and production. We would like see large operators coming in.”

Due to the strong presence of the natural-gas industry in Texas, it is critical to continue enhancing Israel’s direct connection with the state, he said. To this effect, approximately 70,000 people were expected to attend the OTC conference this week, a Texan venue that is hosting professional natural- gas producers and people associated with the industry from all over the world, he said.

In a Middle East, filled “with all of its turmoil,” Israel is essentially the “only economically and democratically stable place that one can do business with and rely on doing business with,” Landau said.

Noble Energy has been operating in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel for more than a decade. It currently has a 47-percent interest in Israel’s offshore natural-gas production and sales, according to the Consulate General of Israel in Houston.

While its site at Tamar is certainly large, at about 250 billion cubic meters, the adjacent Leviathan site – 450 b.cu.m. – represents Noble Energy’s largest exploration success in the company’s history.

Noble Energy was also one of the first companies to independently explore the Gulf of Mexico, the Israeli Consulate said.

On Wednesday, Landau was scheduled to visit the development site in Corpus Christi, where Noble Energy is constructing the rig that will be used to extract gas from the Tamar exploration site, about 80 kilometers west of Haifa’s coast.

“I wish to get a firsthand impression,” he said.

Noble Energy’s current estimated target date to begin gas production at Tamar is April 2013.

While it would be ideal to accelerate the start date even more, in light of the gaps in natural-gas supply that will likely occur between the end of Israel’s Yam Tethys source and the beginning of Tamar, Landau said he was not sure if Noble Energy would be able to expedite the process further.

“Regardless, we are following closely what is taking place because we would like to see this project being finished as quickly as possible,” he said.

With Egypt’s decision to end natural- gas exports to Israel, Cairo will not be filling in any of these gaps at the moment. But Landau expressed hope that the Egyptian gas flow to Israel would eventually recommence.

“We will do whatever we can to see that it continues in [the] future,” he said. “We see this agreement as an anchor, as the most important derivative we have within the peace agreement. We will do whatever possible. But again, the Egyptians have their own responsibility to this agreement.”

After landing in Houston on Tuesday, Landau met with representatives from one energy firm.

He was slated to meet with leaders from ConocoPhillips, Baker Hughes, Caterpillar, FMC Corporation and Kiewit Offshore Services.

Many companies have already shown interest in Israel’s naturalgas future, but Landau said he would need to provide them with whatever information is necessary to persuade them into getting involved.
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