The biggest stakeholder in the Leviathan natural gas field arrived in Israel on Monday to present data to National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resource Minister Yuval Steinitz, in hopes that it will “accelerate Leviathan’s development.”
Noble Energy Inc. CEO and chairman David Stover, along with other company officials, presented Steinitz with the project’s timetable, as well as data on the gas field’s development.
Houston, Texas-based Noble Energy owns a 39.66% stake of the 621-billion-cubic-meter Leviathan reservoir, while Delek Group subsidiaries Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration each hold 22.67%, and Ratio Oil Exploration has a 15% share.
At the meeting, Stover promised that notwithstanding volatility in the global energy market, Leviathan’s development will continue in accord with the timetable “that was agreed upon in the natural gas framework,” or potentially develop the gas field faster.
Steinitz told the Noble delegation that he would expedite the gas field’s licensing process, and that Israel was committed to the Leviathan gas outline.
Falling oil prices have sent shock waves through the global energy market, making natural gas relatively more expensive. For example, in February, Israel’s Phoenicia Ltd., which received a hefty government subsidy in 2012 to convert its glass factory to natural gas, announced it will go back to using petroleum fuel due to low oil prices.
Yossi Dorfman, head of the Gas Campaign group at the student movement Green Course, saw Monday’s meeting and the statements made as an indication that the authority of the High Court is being disregarded.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, Dorfman said that, while the Leviathan deal is still awaiting the High Court’s approval, both parties are acting as if it had already been passed. The meeting shows that both sets of officials are ignoring the rule of law at the expense of Israel’s citizens, he said.
“This wouldn’t happen in any other developed country.
Only in Third World countries where tycoons and politicians work together to put pressure on the public,” Dorfman said.
Leviathan’s partners hope to have gas start flowing by 2019, according to Bini Zomer, Noble Energy’s Israel country manager. But that date would require having the Knesset approve the plan by the end of 2016. Zomer said in February that this is an “ambitious but realistic goal.”
Dorfman, however, expressed doubts that the partners will be able to stick to this timetable. He speculated that natural gas from Leviathan likely won’t start flowing for another decade.
On February 25, the partners submitted their development plan to the government.
That plan calls for eight production wells to be drilled along with two pipelines – one for domestic and export use, and the second solely for gas export. The wells will be able to produce an estimated 21 billion cubic meters of gas annually, though sources close to the industry said that number could be increased to 31 BCM if Turkey were to agree to purchase its energy supplies from Leviathan.
The source added that the biggest potential export customers are Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.
By Michelle Malka Grossman
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