Should Israel export its natural gas?

Natural gas fields are worth billions and ready to transform Israel’s economy


Israel's natural gas fields (Photo: Getty)

Israel's natural gas fields (Photo: Getty)

Israel has made headlines with its uncovered wealth of natural gas. The fields, which hold 900bcm of natural gas, will impact citizens’ lives and boost the political and economic bargaining power of the Jewish state, according to a leading energy expert.

One of its fastest developing industries, natural gas was first discovered in Israel in 1998. The Leviathan and Tamar fields, respectively located 130km and 90km offshore from Haifa, are the largest fields in the world discovered over the past decade.

“These are very exciting times for the energy sector in Israel,” says Dr Amit Mor, the CEO of Eco Energy, an Israel-based government and private company consultancy firm.

“The fields have made a significant contribution to the Israeli economy. They are a major energy source, will change industry and amount to one per cent of Israel’s GDP — around $5 billion per annum.”

Dr Mor says 60 per cent of energy in Israel will come from natural gas resources by 2014. But a decade ago, Israel was run natural gas-free, with 80 per cent of energy from coal sources and 20 per cent oil.

“Natural gas is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than polluting coal or expensive oil,” says Dr Mor.

“It has major geo-political and environmental importance.

“Israel is a small country with many entrepreneurs, so together we can decrease our dependency on oil.”

Dr Mor, a natural gas specialist, says Tamar, with reserves of around 8.4 trillion cubic feet (tcf), “can supply Israel’s energy needs for the next 15 years — but it is essential to develop our sources.

“Natural gas will transform industry in Israel — especially shipping, electric cars, compressed natural gas, the production of methanol and the future production of gasoline and diesel.”

Last month, 200 protestors challenged the Israeli government’s decision to retain 60 per cent of natural gas for domestic use — but export 40 per cent internationally. Israeli leaders are reportedly planning to export $60 billion worth of natural gas over the next 20 years — and likely to extend to neighbouring Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the decision: “Israel has received a gift — gas in vast quantities.

“Gas must not stay in the ground under layers of bureaucracy and populism.

“We will lower the cost of living in the electricity sector, and invest in the public welfare thanks to the profits from gas exports.”

By 2040, over $80 billion of gas profits will go into a public fund.

The international trade potential promises to bridge political barriers.

Dr Mor revealed that the “export of gas to Turkey is being examined”.

Moreover, the Energy Triangle, a joint natural gas extraction between Israel, Cyprus and Greece, intends to export natural gas to Europe by 2015.

“The fields give us a competitive advantage when it comes to industrial exporters as our gas is half the price of natural gas in Europe,” adds Dr Mor.

“We must preserve natural gas for domestic use, but it is also important to export gas as it enhances national security in Israel.”

Last updated: 10:45am, July 8 2013