Israel: An energy superpower?

With Israel poised to become a player in the big energy league, the Middle East political kaleidoscope is about to be given a good shaking.

Tamar natural gas rig 370 (photo credit: Albatross)
Tamar natural gas rig 370
(photo credit: Albatross)
Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil!
–    Golda Meir, 10 June 1973

To misquote William Wordsworth: “Golda, thou should’st be living at this hour!” 
Sitting fairly and squarely within Israel’s territorial waters – although spilling out somewhat to the North and East – and encompassing about 83,000 square miles, is the so-called “Levant basin.” In April 2010, the US Geological Survey estimated that no less than 1.7 billion barrels of oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of gas were recoverable from this vast and long unsuspected energy reserve. A year later, In the light of subsequent discoveries, their estimate was upped to 200 trillion cubic feet of gas.
It was back in the 1950s that Israel first tried drilling for oil – and indeed a small oilfield was discovered at Heletz, south of Ashdod and close to the Gaza strip. No-one – and certainly not Golda Meir – realized that Heletz was the extreme southern tip of vast oil and gas reserves stretching far into the Mediterranean. So for a further fifteen years it was only perfunctory on-shore exploration that continued, with a marked lack of commercial success.
By the late 1960s, however, the technology for drilling off-shore for gas and oil in extremely difficult ocean conditions was being rapidly developed, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and off the coast of the United Kingdom. Israel licensed its first offshore exploratory well in 1969.