American energy giant Exxon Mobil is considering entering the Israeli arena to explore for oil and gas, according to a report Wednesday.
Companies officials met this week with Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz in Houston, Texas to discuss bidding for exploration rights, Reuters said, ahead of a June auction.
In recent years large natural gas reserves have been discovered off Israel’s shores. Another US-based energy company, Noble Energy, is currently completing its rig in the Leviathan gas field, the largest reserve discovered in the country so far. It is estimated to contain 18 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Natural gas from the field is supposed to pump into Israel and its neighboring countries by the end of the year. Israel already has export deals signed with Jordan and Egypt, and it aims to build a pipeline with Greece and Cyprus to carry the gas to Europe.
Reuters noted that Exxon and other major energy companies have so far avoided the Israeli market, as their heavy investments in Arab states could bring them into potential conflict with the latter.
However, the emerging potential of Israel’s offshore reserves appears to be too lucrative a business opportunity to give up (Israel’s warming ties with a number of Arab nations in the face of Iran’s regional threat may also help smooth over such concerns).
According to Reuters Israel estimates its seabed contains around 75 trillion cubic feet of gas and 6.6 billion barrels of oil.
Exxon Mobil is one of the world’s largest publicly traded energy companies and in 2018 was ranked #9 on Fortune Global 500, an annual list of the world’s top companies.
With the expected gas boon, Israel plans to wean itself off coal and emerge as an unlikely energy exporter — providing both an economic and political lift.
Recently local activists have been urging Noble Energy to move its proposed shoreline gas rig farther out to sea for fear of what they call catastrophic consequences of spreading toxic water and air pollution toward their homes.
Noble and the Israeli government say it’s an irresponsible scare campaign and have countered with an aggressive ad campaign extolling the virtues of Leviathan, which it has dubbed “the national project.”
AP contributed to this report.