US vice president, Joe Biden, meets Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem early March
US vice president, Joe Biden, meets Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem early March

US Politicians, Noble Meet Israeli Ministers ahead of Stability Ruling

Noble Energy CEO David Stover and senior company executives visited Israel’s energy minister Yuval Steinitz and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 14 to chivvy things along with the Leviathan field development.

He arrived a few days before the High Court of Justice is due to release its decision on the petitions objecting the natural gas regulatory framework, but the ministry said that was a coincidence.

In a statement the ministry said Stover presented Steinitz with the timetable and data in an effort to accelerate the development of the Leviathan reservoir." The ministry said the visit had been planned in advance and had no connection to the legal process.

"Noble's executives have reassured [us] that despite the turmoil in the global energy markets it will be possible to complete the development of Leviathan in accordance with the framework's timetables and even to shorten the duration," the spokeswoman said. "Steinitz said that the Israeli government is committed to the gas framework and the ministry will act to solve the bureaucratic processes in order to enable the gas field development in an orderly manner."

Stover is not the first American to show interest in the gas framework. Last week during a visit to Israel, the US vice president, Joe Biden, weighed in on the gas framework, though only indirectly. "… In the last five years the US, North America, has become the epicenter of energy in the world," said Biden in a joint statement with Netanyahu. "Well, guess what? Little old Israel is about to become the epicenter of energy in this entire region, and can have a profound, profound positive impact on relationships from Egypt to Turkey to Cyprus to Greece to Jordan. And it's not easy getting there, but you have the tools now."

Behind closed doors Biden was more determined, according to the daily paper Haaretz, when he pressed Netanyahu to reach an agreement with Turkey to end the six-year stand-off in Turkey-Israel relations. According to the paper, Biden told Netanyahu that Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was eager to conclude the reconciliation agreement with Israel and said he was willing to assist in any way possible to achieve that elusive agreement between the two long-standing allies of the US.

According to Arab sources, Turkey is demanding that Israel sells it weapons while Netanyahu is demanding that Turkey signs a long-term gas purchase agreement from Leviathan partnership.

Israel the only bright spot for Noble

For Stover it is his first visit to Israel since he became Noble's top executive over a year ago. During that period, Israel has became the only profitable region for Noble. For 2015 Noble reported operating losses in the US and West Africa and operating profit in Israel. According to Noble's 2015 annual report, in the coming years its Israeli operation will contribute 35% of its future net cash flows, up from 25% in its 2014 annual report. The rise is due to the global slump in oil and natural gas prices. Israel’s gas price has remained stable at about $5.5/mn Btu.

 

Ya'acov Zalel

 


 

  

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