Israel’s natural-gas sector reminds Norwegians of theirs

“The main comparison is two relatively small countries with little knowledge of oil and gas and a relatively high educational position."

Offshore Gas Drilling 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Offshore Gas Drilling 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A major Norwegian energy company held its first information day in Tel Aviv on Monday, and officials said they see similarities between Israel and their own country on the eve of its gas and oil boom in the late 1960s.
“The main comparison is two relatively small countries with little knowledge of oil and gas and a relatively high educational position,” Atle Aamodt Andresen, vice president for Oslo-based AGR, told The Jerusalem Post. He said Norway had solved this problem by convincing advanced engineers and geologists to move away from other industries and into the gas and oil sectors.
AGR, which has drilled more than 430 offshore wells around the world and conducts upwards of 200 offshore studies each year, was appointed last month as operator for Pelagic’s six oil and gas exploration licenses off the Israeli coast. The licenses – Yishai, Aditia, Lela, Yahav, Yoad and Ayala – cover an area of more than 2,000 square kilometers bordering Israel’s maritime border with Cyprus.
AGR CEO Sverre Skogen said friends and family had told him he was crazy when he entered the Norwegian gas and oil industry in its early days, but he was fortunate not to have followed their advice. Norway is the world’s second-largest exporter of natural gas, Skogen said, due in part to its success in educating its population and workforce about the industry.
While it is still unclear just how much natural gas lies deep below Israeli waters, the increasing presence of large companies such as AGR, which says it has more local deals in the pipeline, is testament to the massive potential here. The Leviathan and Tamar fields, both in Israeli territory, were the two biggest deepwater gas discoveries in the world over the past decade. The US Geological Survey estimates the gas potential in the entire Mediterranean Basin at about $540 billion – more than double Israel’s GDP.
Uri Aldubi, chairman of the recently established Association of Oil and Gas Exploration Industries in Israel, said the country could learn from the presence of large companies such as AGR. Not enough Israelis are involved in oil and gas at present, he said, and “the only way to get more Israelis in the industry is for someone to educate them.”
Israel has the opportunity not only to become energy independent, but also to become a global player in the gas and oil scene, Aldubi said. But he warned that if Israel is to realize its full potential, it would need to utilize its own skilled personnel.
“We are always talking about how many jobs this industry will create,” Aldubi said. “It’s important to have more engineers, more geophysicists, but until now there have been no Israelis in this industry.”