ISRAEL HAS become the sole state in the region with proven natural gas reserves whose magnitude significantly outpaces the needs of the local market.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel is poised to enter a new era of exporting natural gas to her neighbors as well as displacing coal for domestic energy production leading to a healthier future for Israel’s citizens, according to Binyamin A. Zomer, Noble Energy’s vice president for regional affairs, which operates the Tamar and Leviathan natural-gas fields offshore Israel.
“Israel’s ability to export natural gas has provided a common interest for Israel and its neighbors, including Jordan, Egypt and Turkey,” said Zomer. “Natural gas puts Israel in a new position as energy suppliers and not just energy consumers.”
In 2013, Israel adopted a gas export policy, allowing the country to export about 40% of newly discovered natural-gas reservoirs. Zomer said Israel has more natural gas than it can use.
Currently, the Tamar gas field supplies Israel with around 65% of its power needs. Critics have contended that the current reliance on one source is a national security risk. Zomer said Leviathan will provide Israel with additional energy security.
“Leviathan is going to bring Israel into a new era,” he said. Leviathan is Israel’s largest-ever privately-funded infrastructure project. Noble Energy and its Israeli partners are investing approximately $3.75 billion dollars in developing the Leviathan gas field off the Haifa coast, which is almost 30% complete.
“We will be advancing this project as quickly as possible,” he said. Zomer added that in January 2018, approximately 80% of the equipment for the Leviathan Production Platform will be on location at the shipyard in Corpus Christi, Texas where the platform is being constructed.
As this and a handful of smaller natural-gas projects are complete, natural gas will replace the majority of coal still used in Israel, which will lead to a cleaner and healthier environment.
Environmentalists generally favor natural gas over other energy sources. In Israel, environmental protection groups are pushing for natural gas to come to market as quickly as possible, especially in power plants, because natural gas pollutes much less than oil or coal.
Today, coal represents the largest pollutant in the country. The Ministry of Natural Infrastructures, Energy and Water found that in addition to reducing pollution and greenhouse gases, natural gas is much more efficient and can produce almost 20% more electricity than coal or oil.
Already, annual natural-gas consumption jumped from 8.4 bcm. in 2015, representing an 11% growth from 2014, according to a report by the Ministry.
However, residents of the Haifa area are pushing back, charging they don’t want Leviathan to be developed in their neighborhood. “The complaints are based on emotion rather than facts,” said Zomer at the conference. The reservoir operates 5,000 m. below sea level And all treatments will be done in a closed system located 10 km. offshore.
Zomer said that the Ministry of Natural Infrastructures, Energy and Water, the Health Ministry and the Environmental Protection Ministry are all involved in making sure that not only does the Leviathan project move forward, but that the health and other needs of the people and the country are protected.
Zomer sees a strong future for Israel’s natural-gas industry. Not only does he believe Noble “will be an integral part of Israel’s energy future,” but he said with Noble’s success, he expects more companies to come to Israel, drill and compete.