New natural gas field off Israel’s coast, pipeline to Europe ?

Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom visits a special processing plant off the coast of Ashdod in MarchEnergy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom visits a special processing plant off the coast of Ashdod in March

A new natural gas field off Israel’s Mediterranean coast may hold about 3.2 trillion cubic feet of gas, about one third the size of the giant Tamar field, its two Israeli partners said Sunday after conducting a 3D seismic survey of the area.

A new natural gas field containing about 3.2 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas has been discovered about 150 kilometres (93 miles) off Israel’s coast after a 3D seismic survey of the area.

The Royee field contains, according to a seismic survey, between 1.9 and 5 tcf, with 3.2 tcf the best estimate.

The license for the Royee field is held by Israel’s Ratio Oil, which has a 70% stake, along with Israel Opportunity Energy Resources, with a 10% stake. Italian power company Edison, controlled by France’s EDF, holds 20% of the find.

If the survey is correct, the field would be Israel’s third biggest. Between the two of them, the much larger Leviathan and Tamar fields have 33 tcf.

According to Israel Opportunity CEO Eyal Shuker, the find is further evidence that the eastern Mediterranean, known as the Levantine Basin, is full of natural gas, and oil may yet be discovered in the region. I

“At the national level, the news means a lot. We have learned that the Levantine Basin holds reservoirs at other depths and I hope the next government will exploit the opportunity,” he said.

However, economists cited by the Times of Israel said the Royee gas field may not be extracted in the near future because the “veteran” fields Leviathan and Tamar, still have much gas remaining in them.

Reporting Sunday on the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields, the New York Times mentioned that with the domestic market not being large enough to fully exploit their potential, Noble and Delek Group are focusing on Egypt and Jordan as potential export markets.

US officials, according to the Times, are also pushing the strategy forward, hoping to both increase economic cooperation between Israel and its neighbours and to potentially offer Europe an alternative to Russian gas.

The Energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Israel held recently with the EU to try to advance a plan for a pipeline linking the gas riches in the eastern Mediterranean to Europe. They met European Commission Vice President responsible for Energy, Maros Sefcovic.

Cypriot Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis has said the three countries put their case forward for a technical and feasibility study on building a pipeline through the Mediterranean westwards to Europe, tapping hydrocarbons discovered in the Levantine Basin.

The EU has drawn up a list of priority projects considered to play a role in completing the EU energy union and they include infrastructure to ship eastern Mediterranean gas.

This year’s conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the transit route for roughly half the energy Russia supplies to the EU, has focused EU debate on energy security and diversifying supplies.

It has also driven Russia’s quest for alternative shipment routes and it had planned a giant pipeline named South Stream to pump gas into south-eastern Europe, bypassing Ukraine. The Commission, however, said the pipeline did not meet EU regulatory rules and on Monday, Russia announced it was scrapping the plan.

Israel has proposed that EU countries invest in a multi-billion euro pipeline to carry its natural gas to the continent. Jerusalem sees the potential deal as a way to improve ties with the EU.

“It’s good for them, it’s good for us,” Israeli Energy Minister Silvan Shalom has said. “They will have a reliable source, we will have good relations with them. We can provide the gas, and the best way they can have it and I believe at the cheapest price.”

A potential deal could bring around 10bn cubic metres of gas to Europe each year. The pipeline could be the longest in the world if built, stretching as far as 1,530km and reaching depths of 3,000m in parts.