Israel as Fossil-Fuel Giant: How Many Ways Could This Change the Game?

by Judith Levy

A preliminary geological survey has indicated that there might be about 26 million barrels of recoverable oil a mile under the sand near two kibbutzim in the northern Negev. That would amount to about $2 billion at current prices. There might be 12 million additional barrels further down.

This news comes a day after drilling began on the Leviathan, a record-setting exploratory well in a massive natural-gas field off the coast of Haifa. The area is thought to contain 16 trillion cubic feet of gas, and it might also contain oil. The Leviathan is twice as big as the Tamar natural-gas field struck last year, and the Tamar is already expected to produce enough gas to supply Israel for 20 years. (That’s a big deal: Israel has long depended on natural-gas imports from Egypt; what little she had produced domestically pre-Tamar was expected to dry up in 2012.) If the Leviathan produces what is hoped, it might — typing this makes me feel a little giddy — turn Israel into a natural-gas-exporting country.

So here’s the lowdown. Leviathan is 40 percent held by Noble Energy, an American company. Twenty-three percent each is held by Delek and Avner, both Israeli companies. But the Lebanese government and Hezbollah are claiming that whatever the Americans and Israelis find off the Haifa coast actually belongs to them. Hezbollah, lest we forget, possesses long-range rockets. Green Prophet, an environmental and clean technology site, is worried: The destruction by terrorists — sorry, by Hezbollah — of the gas-producing rigs off Haifa could cause “an environmental catastrophe on a similar scale to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.” That damage would be on top of all the other consequences of what would surely be a full-scale war.

Well, we’ll see. As Hank Pellissier notes at World Future Today, Israel’s potential as a natural-gas exporter could shift some relationships in interesting ways (Israel-Greece? Israel-Turkey? Israel-Georgia? Israel-Asia?). In the meantime, this is exciting news.

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