Infrastructures Ministry approves drilling in Noa field

Rapid extraction will help bridge gap between Mari-B’s end and Tamar’s beginning, experts say.

leviathan gas drill (photo credit: (Albatross))
leviathan gas drill
(photo credit: (Albatross))
The National Infrastructures Ministry granted permission to Noble Energy on Sunday night to begin development of the small “Noa North” natural gas reservoir to bridge any gaps that might occur between the depletion of the Mari-B Yam Tethys supply and the opening of the Tamar gas reserves, the ministry announced on Monday morning.
Noble Energy, the American company also responsible for the development of the large Tamar and Leviathan gas reserves off the coast of Haifa, can begin drilling 1.2 billion cubic meters of gas at the adjacent Noa-1 on July 15, the ministry said.
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Experts have said that Tamar will only be ready sometime between 2012 and 2013, and in the meantime, if the Egyptian natural gas supply remains inaccessible, the Mari-B Yam Tethys supply off the coast of Ashkelon would only have about a year and a quarter worth of gas left. The ministry therefore expressed hopes that the additional drilling will provide for “the expected shortage of natural gas at the end of the year 2012,” according to a statement.
Only after receiving guarantees from Noble Energy that significant quantities of natural gas would not pass from this field to other more south and southwestern sections of the reservoir did the National Infrastructures Ministry’s petroleum supervisor give the company the go-ahead, the statement said. These other sections of the reserve are partially under Palestinian Authority administration and the potential diplomatic repercussions of accidentally interfering with those fields have prevented National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau from taking this step previously, Globes reported an expert source as saying.
Leading scholars in Israel’s natural gas industry praised the government’s decision to allow drilling in Noa North.
“This is an important decision,” said Prof. Brenda Shaffer, an expert on energy policy and management at the University of Haifa. “It means that they are indeed recognizing publicly that there will be a gap between the end of Yam Tethys and the beginning of production at Tamar. It probably also means that they can’t get LNG on buoy here on time.”
Shaffer did question, however, whether 1.2 billion cubic meters of additional natural gas would be sufficient to bridge the gap.
Responding to an inquiry from The Jerusalem Post, a National Infrastructures Ministry spokeswoman said that this amount will in fact be sufficient enough to cover the short-term lapse between the depletion of Yam Tethys and the connection of the Tamar reservoir to Israel’s energy supply.
“I think that the Noa development is required to bridge the gap in the gas supply between the depletion of the Mari-B and the commissioning of the Tamar field,” said Dr. Amit Mor, CEO and energy specialist at the Eco Energy consulting firm. “That small field, which would not have been developed otherwise, is required to supply gas or serve as a backup for supplying gas to oil refineries and possibility to other consumers in case there is be a lack of gas during this interim period.
This will be an important insurance to securing the supply of gas during this interim period in case there is a lack of gas due to geopolitical reasons (Egyptian gas) or technical delays in Tamar.”
Like Shaffer, however, while Mor favored the drilling, he did point out some disadvantages of the process.
“It should be noted that in regular gas supply conditions, this field would not have been developed because it’s a small field. And also the fast extraction will kill this field,” he said, explaining that removing 1.2 billion cubic meters from Noa now will prevent further such procedures there in the future due to the mechanics involved with fast extractions.
But still, Mor maintained, drilling quickly now will be worth the future sacrifice.
“It is necessary as a security premium,” he said.