Shalom: Gas exports to be capped at 40%

As companies explore, drill through Israel’s eastern Mediterranean waters, export allowances have become a topic of contention.

Leviathan 521 (photo credit: Albatross)
Leviathan 521
(photo credit: Albatross)
Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom intends to set the maximum natural gas export allocation at 40 percent rather than the expected 53% figure, he told Channel 2 on Wednesday night. As companies continue to explore and drill through Israel’s eastern Mediterranean waters, export allowances have become a topic of contention across the country. The 282-billion cubic meter Tamar reservoir is already flowing into Israel, and its neighboring approximately 535-b. cu. m. basin Leviathan is slated to come online within the next few years. Although the Zemach Committee – headed by Energy and Water Ministry Director-General Shaul Zemach – recommended a maximum export allocation of 500 b. cu. m. this fall, the government has yet to officially approve any export policy.
The Zemach Committee’s conclusions, which also called for a minimum of 450 b. cu. m. of gas to be allotted for domestic use, have been under constant criticism from environmentalists across the board, who say that much more of the resource is needed at home. Gas explorers and producers, on the other hand, say contend that a stable export policy will attract additional entrepreneurs to enter the region and thereby discover more resources – bringing a benefit to Israel’s citizens as well.
After hearing the 40 percent export cap presented on Channel 2, environmentalists still maintained that they would not be satisfied with this figure.
"The export of 40% of our natural gas as was published this evening is an offer that was presented to us, but our position is that this proposal does not meet the real needs of the citizens of Israel," said Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz. According to the Environment Ministry's tests and analyses, at least 600 b. cu. m. of natural gas will be required for the energy, transportation and chemicals industry at home, Peretz added.
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) likewise slammed the new proposal, calling on the Energy and Water Ministry to "stop playing with numbers and return to talk about principles." Such a decision needs to be discussed in the Knesset and needs to be a transparent matter with public input, Henin explained.
Presenting this reduction of percentages as a "social" decision is false, since export percentage can only be relevant once Israel knows exactly how much gas it has, added Amit Bracha, executive director of Adam Teva V'Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense).
"This discourse is not about amounts of percentages of gas that Israel will export, but is a substantive issue of who owns Israeli gas," a statement from the Struggle for the Preservation of Israeli Gas movement.