For decades, Israel has depended on other countries to meet its energy needs despite its proximity to some of the world’s top oil producers in the Middle East. That is changing very rapidly.
Now, the 67-year-old country with an even younger energy sector has gained prominence in recent years thanks to a winning streak of natural gas discoveries. By U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, the small country—home to about 8 million people and a burgeoning technology industry—holds at least 6.7 trillion cubic feet and 14 million barrels of proved gas and oil reserves, respectively.
Houston-based Noble Energy’s success in the Mediterranean Sea offshore Israel put the country on the energy scene in the late 1990s with the Mars-B discovery. More and bigger gas finds followed, strengthening the country’s energy security and setting the foundation for its transformation into a gas exporter, with Noble’s 10 Tcf Tamar gas find in 2009 and the gigantic Leviathan Field, with gross resources of about 22 Tcf, in 2010.
While development of the Tamar Field has moved forward, regulatory issues, including antitrust concerns, have stalled development of Leviathan, which is being developed by Noble and Israel’s Delek Group. In September, Israel’s parliament approved a deal regulating the fields, but it still needs the signature of Israel’s economy minister.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz visited Houston to discuss the issue as well as what Israel has to offer as the country works to attract energy companies during a time of low commodity prices, budgetary constraints and continued turmoil in the Middle East.
After several delays, Noble Energy will likely get the green light soon to press forward with developing two massive offshore natural gas fields in Israel, resolving a long-standing dispute that has slowed the Houston company’s investment to a halt, the country’s energy minister said Tuesday in Houston. “I’m confident by the end of this year, and in a few weeks time, this will be over,” Israeli Energy Minister Steinitz said in a meeting with about two dozen members of Rice University’s James Baker Institute’s Energy Forum on Tuesday. Minister Steinitz answered critical questions in an interview found here: http://www.epmag.com/videos/israeli-energy-minister-talks-policy-potential-823906
Earlier in the day, Minister Steinitz met with industry leaders at The Greater Houston Partnership for a business breakfast discussion of the current situation with the energy industry in Israel. The meeting was well attended with many local stakeholders including Atwood Oceanics, who successfully drilled the Tamar well for Noble Energy.
Minister Steinitz, in his role as Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources, also was the honored guest at a business luncheon held at The University of Houston, for regional water experts, exploring how the U.S. southern region could partner with Israel’s well known expertise in water technologies to advance water conservation here.
Israel’s biggest water conference, Watec, was recently held in Tel Aviv, and several Texas attendees to the conference were present for the Minister’s meeting, and it was very clear that Israel is viewed as the world’s leader in water conservation and technology.