Amid heavy rocket fire, Israel shuts down Tamar offshore natural gas field

US energy giant Chevron, operator of Tamar reservoir located off Ashkelon coast, says Energy Ministry ordered production at the rig suspended

Sharon Wrobel is a tech reporter for The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: The Tamar gas field. (NewMed Energy/Delek Drilling)
Illustrative: The Tamar gas field. (NewMed Energy/Delek Drilling)

As heavy rocket fire from the Gaza Strip continued to batter the south and center of the country Monday, Israel ordered the temporary shutdown of the Tamar offshore natural gas field.

The situation prompted the defense establishment to temporarily stop the supply of natural gas from the Tamar gas field, the Energy Ministry said in a statement. The Tamar field is a major natural gas source and without its supplies power stations will need to use other fuels to meet electricity demands.

“The economy’s energy needs will be supplied by alternative fuels,” the ministry said. “The electricity industry is preparing to use alternative fuels to power its stations.”

Supplies from Tamar are pumped to the southern city of Ashkelon through an undersea pipeline.

The announcement comes amid heavy barrages of rockets fired by terrorists in the Gaza Strip at towns in southern and central Israel, a day after Israel formally declared a state of war as the death toll from the massive attack by the Hamas terror group rose to 800 and was expected to rise further.

Energy Ministry director general Kobi Blitshtein said that the top priority was connecting disconnected customers to electricity.

US energy giant Chevron confirmed that the partners in the field were instructed to suspend production.

An aerial view of the Israeli Tamar gas processing rig 24 kilometers off the Israeli southern coast of Ashkelon.

Chevron holds a 25% stake in the Tamar gas field. The other partners are Isramco, which holds 28.75% of the rights; Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Energy, which holds 22%; Tamar Petroleum, which holds 16.75%; Dor Gas with 4%; and Everest with 3.5%.

Israel’s natural gas operations have in recent years put the country on a path to energy independence — and have shielded it from the worst of the energy crisis sparked by the Russian war on Ukraine — in a region with few natural resources.

The Leviathan natural gas field, the nation’s largest, started pumping on December 31, 2019, after natural gas started to flow in 2013 at the nearby Tamar, the second largest, which holds some 10 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas, half of the amount held in Leviathan. For now, gas flow from the Leviathan field has not been stopped.

“The ministry is constantly working to ensure the functional continuity of the energy sector, in all its parts,” said Blitshtein. “We continue to closely monitor the events and prepare for all scenarios, in coordination with the relevant ministries and the various bodies.” .

Israel has been exporting gas from the Tamar field to Jordan since January 2017, and the Leviathan field started exports to Egypt in January 2020. The Leviathan deals are considered to be bigger and more significant for the economy.

In August, Israel gave approval for the expansion of natural gas exports to Egypt from the Tamar reservoir. Overall, natural gas production from the Tamar field from 2026 was expected to increase by 60%, or 6 bcm annually.

Chevron last year signed a memorandum of understanding with state-owned Egyptian Gas Holding Company (EGAS) to explore cooperation on the transport, import, liquefication, and export of natural gas from the east Mediterranean to Egypt.

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