Karish: Israel's Latest Offshore Discovery
Karish is Israel's latest offshore gas discovery northwest of Haifa and the fifth field to contain over 1 tcf of gas. Noble Energy announced on the 22nd of May the discovery of the Karish well, located in the Alon C license approximately 20 miles northeast of the Tamar field, in 5,700 feet of water. It estimated the reserve potential at 1.6 to 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Karish is located northwest of Haifa about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the coast.
Several other discoveries were made offshore Israel in the last decade that could turn Israel into a major net exporter of natural gas. The Leviathan, containing an estimated 19 tcf of gas, is the largest discovery off Israel’s shores. The Tamar field, containing 9 tcf, is another of Israel’s major discoveries and came online in March 2013. Israel’s riches could satisfy the domestic needs for decades and fill the state’s coffers with billions of Shekels from sales to export markets.
The newly discovered resources divided the country: while some saw the riches as an opportunity to ensure self-sufficiency and energy independence, others longed for the cash. Protesters expressed their discontent over the Tzemach’s committee recommendation to export half of the gas. The Tzemach came to its conclusion to ensure that Israel had enough gas to be energy independent for 25 years. The cabinet responded to the public’s concern and reduced the export quota to 40% from the 50% recommended by the Tzemach to achieve a balance between keeping the investors interested in gas exploration offshore Israel and ensuring the country’s energy security. By becoming a major energy exporter, Israel will benefit from a new inflow of revenues that could be used to enhance several public needs such as health and education.
Israel’s export plans remain hindered by domestic obstacles: Israel has tensed relations with its Arab neighbours. It remains unsure how Israel will transport and deliver its gas. While pipelines offer little flexibility and require geopolitical stability, an LNG terminal needs an adequate coastal site that Israel does not have. The Australian giant Woodside was looking to acquire 30% of the rights to the Leviathan and offer its expertise in the LNG field. However, the lengthy debate over gas exports may have deterred Woodside, especially after US-based Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek and Avner signed memorandum of understanding with the Cypriot government to build an LNG plant in Vassilikos.
Other companies have expressed their interest to participate in the USD 12 billion three-train LNG terminal in Cyprus including Total and Eni. Charles Ellinas, CEO of the Cyprus National Hydrocarbon Company, even said that the land could accommodate up to 8 trains to ensure that it can welcome and process gas from neighboring Israel and Lebanon. Israel’s success in its gas explorations may come to fruition if it chooses to collaborate with the Cypriot island.
Karen Ayat is an analyst focused on energy geopolitics in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Follow Karen on Twitter: @karenayat