Offshore Ambitions
How Much Gas Does Israel’s Leviathan Hold?

Late last week the Israeli government gave the green light to its appropriately named Leviathan offshore natural gas field, but as Reuters reports there’s some dispute about exactly how much gas the project holds:

The partners in Israel’s Leviathan natural gas field on Sunday shrugged off a lower estimate of its size from the country’s Energy Ministry, which said the field could be 20 percent smaller than the companies have predicted. The ministry included the estimate in its approval on Thursday of the development plan for the field. This was 17.6 trillion cubic feet (tcf), lower than the companies’ 21.9 tcf estimate.

The ministry also said this could change after it receives more drilling data on one of the project’s wells, Leviathan 5. The companies are sticking with their assessment and are pushing ahead with plans to bring the field online by the end of 2019.

The Leviathan isn’t Israel’s only recently discovered offshore natural gas field: the neighboring Tamar field is estimated to contain roughly 8 trillion cubic feet of gas, and has already begun producing enough gas to add a full percentage point to the country’s GDP. That should help contextualize the size of Leviathan, because while the competing estimates for its total yield range from 17.6 tcf to 21.9 tcf, even at the lower end of that range the field contains more than double what the Tamar holds.

It’s taken a while to get to this point, though. The government struck a deal with the project’s investors last August, but in March the Supreme Court nixed that, citing concerns that the agreement’s terms handed over too much control over the country’s natural gas supplies to Delek Group, which owns the Tamar field, and the Houston-based company Noble Energy. The Israeli government has reworked the deal to try and address those concerns, and hopes now to fast-track drilling with an eye on starting commercial production in three and a half years.

There are still plenty of hurdles to overcome, though. The Supreme Court could once again interject, and financing for the project has still yet to be finalized. If Israel can move ahead with this, however, it will send ripples through the region, because while the Tamar field’s gas has been earmarked for domestic consumption, the Leviathan’s hydrocarbons will be exported to Israel’s neighbors. This saga is far from over; we’ll be watching.

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