After four years of anticipation, natural gas from the Tamar reservoir began to flow from an offshore rig in the Mediterranean Sea into Israel on Saturday afternoon, the Energy and Water Ministry announced that evening.
Within about 24 hours from its departure from the rig, the gas will begin to arrive at the receiving station in Ashdod. Containing approximately 250 billion cubic meters of natural gas, the discovery and development of Tamar – and the subsequent find of its even bigger neighbor Leviathan – have symbolized to energy experts an opportunity for Israel to hone its energy security and freedom.
“This is a day of energy independence for Israel,” said Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom. “This breakthrough is the first signal for additional private companies to partake in the energy independence of the State of Israel.”
The Tamar production platform reaches a height of about 290 meters, and its weight – including the rig’s legs – amounts to some 34,000 tons.
Located approximately 90 kilometers west of Haifa is the Tamar rig itself, where the gas production wells are operating in the reservoir. A 150-kilometer-long pipeline of approximately 45 centimeters in diameter connects the rig to the Ashdod reception facility along the seabed, the Energy and Water Ministry said.
“The flow of gas from the Tamar reservoir has commenced. This is an important day for the Israeli economy,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Although the Tamar reservoir was discovered in 2009, the need for the gas became increasingly urgent two years ago, when the Egyptian gas supply to Israel was bombed time and time again, eventually ceasing to provide the resource altogether about a year ago.
The gas from Tamar is expected to fulfill Israel’s domestic needs for the next couple of decades, while that of Leviathan will likely be used in part for export. Although the subject of export remains quite controversial among natural gas experts, the government will vote in the near future on the conclusions of the Zemach Committee, which recommended exporting no more than 500 billion cubic meters of natural gas. The contents of Leviathan are approximately double the size of those of Tamar, and should be available within the next few years.
Having Tamar’s gas on tap will save Israel about NIS 13 billion annually on energy costs, according to the conglomerate of companies responsible for its flow. The cohort of corporations that have explored, drilled and developed the gas include Noble Energy, Delek Drilling, Avner, Isramco and Dor Gas.
“I congratulate the people of Israel on this transformational achievement, which significantly moves them toward energy independence and away from reliance on imports,” said Charles D. Davidson, chairman and CEO of Noble Energy.
“Utilizing natural gas from Tamar will provide cleaner air, save the state billions of shekels in energy costs and be an engine for economic growth,” he continued.
“The Tamar project is also a technological and commercial milestone for Noble Energy and our partners. First production and the commencement of sales have been achieved in just over four years from discovery. Building on this success, we will work with our partners and the government to sanction the next phase of development at Tamar and the domestic phase of Leviathan,” added Davidson Yitzhak Tshuva, CEO of the Delek Group. He likewise praised the fulfillment of the “blue-and-white” vision of making Israel less reliant on foreign energy sources.
“This project will change the face of the Israeli market and will ensure energy independence for the country,” Tshuva said. “This is a new era and is full of opportunities for the Israeli economy, in which one can take advantage of the natural gas on the environmental, geopolitical, social and economic level – and transform Israel into an important international player.”
From an environmental standpoint, the use of the natural gas in the Tamar reservoir will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 195 million tons – the equivalent of removing all vehicles from Israeli roads for 14 years, the drilling companies said in a statement.
At the ceremony two weeks ago for the changing of the guard at the Energy and Water Ministry, Shalom pledged to use the new influx of natural gas to reduce the cost of living for Israeli citizens. His predecessor, Uzi Landau – who is currently tourism minister – took pride in the expeditious accomplishment of getting Tamar online, which proved to be a much quicker process than originally expected.
To the prime minister, the timing for Tamar becoming operation was particularly noteworthy, as it fell during the Passover holiday.
“On Passover, the festival of freedom, we are taking an important step toward energy independence,” Netanyahu said.
“In the last decade, we have promoted the gas economy in Israel, something that will prove beneficial for the Israeli economy and all Israel’s citizens.”
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report. •