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The Geopolitics of Israel’s Gas Reserves

The Geopolitics of Israel’s Gas Reserves

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David Wurmser on the history, impact, exports, and threats of Israel's Gas Reserves
David Wurmser on the history, impact, exports, and threats of Israel's Gas Reserves

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Published by: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Jun 10, 2013
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05/14/2014

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TheGeopoliticsofIsrael’sGasReserves
DavidWurmser
April4,2013
 
TheflowofnaturalgasfromIsrael’sTamarreservoirintheMediterraneantotheAshdodreceptionfacilitywasinauguratedonMarch30,2013,usheringinanewerainIsrael’senergysector.Israelwillnotonlybecomeindependentinbeingabletosupplyitsownenergyneeds,butitislikelytobecomeanenergyexporterasitsmaritimegasfieldsarefurtherdeveloped.
 
OnJanuary17,2009,Israel’seconomyandevenitsstrategicstaturechangedwhenateamledbytheTexanfirmNobleEnergydiscoveredgasintheTamarfieldintheeasternMediterranean,whichisestimatedtocontain9.7trillioncubicfeet(TCF)ofnaturalgas.TheTamarwell-headswhichcontainmethanegasareratedatahighlevelofpurity,withanenergyvalueofproductionperwell-headoverfour-foldhigherthanSaudioilwell-heads.Twoyearslater,thesameteamdrillingafewdozenkilometersfurtherwestdiscoveredamonstrousgasfield,appropriatelycalledLeviathan,whichisnowestimatedtocontain18TCFandcouldbeginsupplyinggasin2016.
 
Tamarwasonlythebeginning.Theamountofgassubsequentlydiscoveredoffshorenowdwarfsanyfeasible,projectedIsraelidemandforatleasthalfacentury.TheTamarfieldalonerepresentstwodecadesofconsumption.Assuch,Israelwillbecomeanetexporterofgas.TheIsraeligasdiscoveriesintheeasternMediterraneanareonlypartofnewgasfieldsinwhatiscalledtheLevantBasin,whichincludesthemaritimeareasofIsrael,Cyprus,Lebanon,andevenpartsofSyria’swaters.TheLevantBasincouldhold125TCF.
 
 
Themostlikelyshort-termdestinationforIsrael’snaturalgasisJordan.ConnectingIsrael’semerginggasgridtoJordanisarelativelyinexpensiveandsimpleendeavor.YetIsraelwillalmostcertainlyhavemuchlargeramountstoexport.
 
Givenitsgeographicproximity,EuropewouldseemtobethenaturalexportmarketforIsraeligas.Moreover,EuropeisfacingamajorgassupplycrisisbecauseofthespreadofinstabilityinAlgeriaandtherestofNorthAfrica.YetAsiamayemergeasIsrael’spreferredexportdestination.TheAustralianfirm,Woodside,whichacquiredaboutathirdoftherightstotheLeviathanfield,isorientedtowardmarketinggasinAsia,andenvisionsbuildingaliquefactionplanttoservicethattrade.
 
Israel’srecentexperiencewithEgypt,wherehalfofitsnaturalgassupplywaspermanentlyseveredfollowingthecollapseoftheMubarakregime,suggeststhatIsraelwillviewwithapprehensionanyschemetoanchoritscriticalinfrastructureincountriesbeyonditsownborders,suchasJordan,Cyprus,orTurkey.Thus,itislikelythatultimatelythegaswillbeliquefiedonIsraeliterritoryandexporteddirectlyviaseatotheconsumingmarket.
 
Israeliofficialsviewacross-IsraelnaturalgaspipelineconnectingtheMediterraneanandRedSeasasanalternativetotheSuezCanal.ButanexportstructureoperatingdirectlyfromEilattomarketsinAsiawouldfacearisingstrategicproblem:Iran’sincreasingnavalpresenceintheRedSea.ThiswillrequireIsraeltoestablishandexpandaRedSeafleetaswellasasignificantexpansioninthesizeandcapabilityofitsMediterraneanfleet.
 
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