PANELISTS DISCUSS the Leviathan natural gas field yesterday at the 8th annual National Committee for Energy conference. From left: Noble Energy’s Bini Zomer, Delek’s Yossi Abu, Oil Refineries Ltd.’s Avner Maimon, Paz’s Yona Fogel and moderator Keren Marciano..
(photo credit: DROR SITAHKOL)
Calling the Leviathan natural-gas reservoir and other yet to be discovered fields essential to Israel’s security and economy, US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz expressed hope Tuesday that the issues surrounding its development will be resolved quickly.
Speaking at the National Committee for Energy’s eighth-annual conference at Tel Aviv’s Hilton Hotel, Moniz said stability was key for Israel’s gas plan to move forward.
“When you involve enormous amounts of capital, billions of dollars, to develop something... companies need to have confidence in the future in order to make major capital commitments today,” he said during a discussion of the sector’s potential with Energy, Infrastructure and Water Resources Minister Yuval Steinitz.
He expressed hope that Steinitz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will resolve stability issues “in a timely way.”
Government officials and representatives of the consortium developing Leviathan attending the conference reiterated that they are open to all solutions to get the off-shore field’s development back on track after the High Court on March 27 struck down a section of the country’s gas framework that guaranteed companies fixed prices and regulations for a decade.
Energy Ministry director-general Shaul Meridor said government guarantees of market stability are necessary to encourage more use of natural gas domestically, stating that the government must be a “sponsor and mentor” while the country’s natural gas sector is in its infancy.
Even as the movers and shakers of the energy world convened inside, protesters outside the Hilton waved placards accusing Meridor and Steinitz of holding secret meetings with “gas tycoons.”
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Among the signs, was one comparing the price for which Noble Energy, one of the owners of Leviathan, sells natural gas in the US to that in Israel – $2 in the US and $5 locally.
Moniz, a former MIT physics professor, also spoke of how the US has benefited from natural gas, saying it “revived the industrial sector” and helped lower carbon outputs.
“Our energy revolution is also in energy efficiency as we have increased energy productivity,” he told the gathering.
In the US, oil is no longer associated with electricity production, but rather with transportation, while natural gas is associated with electricity and has helped lower carbon-dioxide emissions.
For the rest of the world, too, Moniz said demand for natural gas is on the rise, noting that China has moved from coal to liquefied natural gas, or LNG, to reduce air pollution.
Steinitz chimed in that demand from Egypt, Turkey and countries in Western Europe also was increasing.
Egypt’s consumption of natural gas is likely to double to 100 billion cubic meters in the next few years, he said, similarly estimating that Turkish demand may increase to 100 BCM from its current level of 55 BCM.
In the “even bigger” Western European market, Steinitz said Israel also has the potential to be a major supplier as current reserves deplete.
Separately, on Tuesday, the Finance Ministry’s National Planning and Building Committee approved National Master Plan (TAMA) 37-H, which calls for Leviathan to have two main pipeline connections on land – one in Emek Hefer and the other near Yokne’am.
Meridor called the plan an important step for Leviathan’s development, and said it represents a balance between the country’s domestic and export gas needs.
The plan calls for processing Leviathan’s gas offshore before bringing it in for domestic use.
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