Government officials cement new outline to resolve gas dispute

Plan would nix separate marketing in Leviathan, require Delek’s exit from Tamar

May 7, 2015 20:12
2 minute read.

A man points as he stands on a tanker carrying liquified natural gas, ten miles off the coast from Hadera. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Aiming to resolve months of disputes that have frozen the Leviathan reservoir’s development, government officials announced on Thursday that they have formulated a final compromise outline to present to the natural gas companies operating off Israel’s Mediterranean coast.

Contrary to the positions of Antitrust Authority Commissioner David Gilo, which remains unchanged, representatives of an inter-ministerial team – from the Finance Ministry, the National Economic Council and the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry – said they reached an agreement on the outline’s new terms on Wednesday night.

Key to the new outline is the revocation of a previous mandate that all of Leviathan shareholders market their gas to the Israeli market separately, government officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

Although the new outline would allow for joint marketing of gas sold to the Israeli market from Leviathan, it would require that the Delek Group’s subsidiaries exit the neighboring Tamar reservoir entirely. In the previous version of the outline, formulated in February, the government had simply proposed forbidding Delek from selling any new Tamar gas to the Israeli market, the officials explained.

While the Delek subsidiaries – Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration – would be required to leave Tamar entirely, Houston-based Noble Energy would only need to dilute its assets there and could remain the basin’s operator, according to the terms of the new outline.

As in the previous version of the outline, both companies would be required to sell their holdings in two much smaller reservoirs, Karish and Tanin.

Despite the announcement of government officials that the new outline had been reached, Gilo remains staunchly in favor of separate marketing in the Leviathan reservoir and is against Noble Energy selling any gas from the Tamar basin to the Israeli market, sources told the Post on Thursday.

The Tamar reservoir, located about 80 km.

west of Haifa, began flowing to Israel in March 2013. Noble Energy holds 36 percent of the basin, while Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration each own 15.625%. In addition, Isramco has a 28.75% stake and Dor Gas Exploration owns 4%.

Noble Energy holds 39.66% of the Leviathan basin, located about 130 km.

west of Haifa, while Delek Drilling and Avner Oil each own 22.67% and Ratio Oil Exploration holds 15%.

The fate of Israel’s offshore gas reservoirs came into question when, on December 23, Gilo first declared that he would review whether the presence of Delek and Noble in Israel’s Mediterranean gas sector constitutes an illegal “restrictive arrangement.” At the time, the commissioner also withdrew his support for a proposed consent decree that would have allowed the companies to resolve the issue by simply selling the two smaller reservoirs, Karish and Tanin.

By February 18, an inter-ministerial team presented Noble Energy and the Delek Group with their first draft outline to solve the stalemate. But the following week, Gilo announced that he would postpone his decision regarding the status of the companies for another two months, allowing for negotiations to continue.

Since then, a series of discussions among the various government officials and representatives of the companies have taken place.

Neither the Delek Group nor Noble Energy provided a reaction to the new outline at this time.

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