Global energy crisis leads Israel to launching fourth natural gas exploration

Energy Minister Karin Elharrar announced the move, effectively canceling the year-long freeze on natural gas explorations that she announced in December 2021.

 IN A ONCE-UNTHINKABLE development, the Mubadala Investment Corporation, a sovereign wealth fund of Abu Dhabi, invested $1 billion in the Tamar natural gas field. (photo credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)
IN A ONCE-UNTHINKABLE development, the Mubadala Investment Corporation, a sovereign wealth fund of Abu Dhabi, invested $1 billion in the Tamar natural gas field.
(photo credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)

Israel will begin the process of launching a fourth exploration for natural gas in its territorial waters, Energy Minister Karin Elharrar said Monday.

The decision came due to the growing need for gas in Europe as it attempts to curb dependence on Russia’s natural gas, following Western sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

The decision came despite Elharrar’s plan to halt searches for natural gas during 2022 to focus on renewable energies, which she announced last December.

“The State of Israel is pitching in and helping Europe diversify its energy sources,” Elharrar said Monday at a press conference. “The global energy crisis provides an opportunity for the State of Israel to export natural gas, along with the honest and real concern for what is going on in Europe.”

"The State of Israel is pitching in and helping Europe diversify its energy sources. The global energy crisis provides an opportunity for the State of Israel to export natural gas, along with the honest and real concern for what is going on in Europe."

Energy Minister Karin Elharrar

"The Energy Ministry under my leadership is acting to ensure Israel's energy security, the diversity of our energy sources and investment in renewable energies, and the Israeli economy's gas reserves for the coming decades," Elharrar said.

Energy Minister Karin Elharrar (credit: Wikimedia Commons)Energy Minister Karin Elharrar (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The energy minister did not mention her previous commitment and portrayed the decision as being consistent with her prior policy.

"According to my policy, during the past year the Energy Ministry focused on developing renewable energies and removing regulatory and bureaucratic barriers in order to alleviate the connection to renewable energies and consolidate a solid foundation for continuing massive advancement of connectivity to renewable energies," she said.

"The geopolitical events in the world and the energy crisis that began as a result completely changed the energy sector," said Energy Ministry Director-General Lior Shilat.

Where is Israel in the gas triangle?

Israel has begun to hold talks with international partners, especially in Europe, the US and Egypt, in order to understand their strategy in handling the crisis. 

"It's important to stress that we and the Europeans are in agreement that the most important strategic move in order to overcome the crisis is to accelerate the development of renewable energies," he said.

"At the same time, however, one cannot ignore the global need for natural gas in the immediate and medium-range period. The Europeans were very clear in their statements that if they do not find enough alternative sources for the natural gas they need, some of the union's countries will be forced to revert to burning coal in order to supply energy."

What is Israel's reception of it?

"In addition, it is difficult to exaggerate the importance of natural gas in strengthening ties between Israel and Egypt and its influence on Israel's geopolitical status in the Middle East," he concluded.

The decision garnered rare praise from Likud MK and former Energy minister Yuval Steinitz.

"I congratulate Energy Minister Karin Elharrar for her wise decision to cancel the freeze on gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea," he said.

"The move from coal to natural gas in power plants decreases air pollution by 90% and greenhouse gases by half, and therefore Europe was correct in backtracking and designating natural gas as green energy," Steinitz said.

"At this point, after the global energy crisis and the wild price rises, we have a golden opportunity to become significant energy providers for Europe - and the Energy minister was correct in having the courage to renege on a prior decision, something that is not simple to do."

Natural Gas Association's response

"The world is desperate for natural gas and Israel should assist the global effort," the Natural Gas Association said in response.

"In light of this, the move announced by the Energy minister is important and blessed. Israel stands out in these days as an island of energy stability and is reaping praise from the world's leading natural gas industries for developing reservoirs, regional export and maintaining stable prices," it said.

"We believe that in Israel's economic waters there is still a significant amount of natural gas that has not been discovered yet, and we hope that new global companies enter the Israeli search within the framework of the new competitive search," the association said.