Israel, US to set up joint R&D center for oil and gas tech, minister says

‘Israeli innovation in oil and gas technology is just beginning,’ Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz says at conference, also urging more exploration for gas fields in Israeli waters

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Ami Appelbaum, Chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority and Chief Scientist, Ministry of Economy and Industry, left to right, Dan Brouillette, Deputy Secretary, US Department of Energy; Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Energy, Israel in Tel Aviv, June 24, 2019 (David Azagury, US Embassy, Israel)
Ami Appelbaum, Chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority and Chief Scientist, Ministry of Economy and Industry, left to right, Dan Brouillette, Deputy Secretary, US Department of Energy; Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Energy, Israel in Tel Aviv, June 24, 2019 (David Azagury, US Embassy, Israel)

Israel and the US are setting up a joint R&D center to focus on technologies to make the oil and gas sector more efficient, Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said at a conference in Tel Aviv on Monday.

“Israeli innovation in oil and gas technology is just beginning,” Steinitz said at the conference, according to a statement. “Many Israeli startups are focused on energy in general, and oil and gas in particular, and we are confident that the traditional oil and gas industry can benefit from Israeli innovation, research and development.”

“We are establishing an R&D Excellence Center with the US to focus on oil and gas efficiencies. New discoveries are waiting, and we encourage new collaborations between Israeli high tech and the global energy industry. In addition, I encourage more global oil and gas companies to explore the rest of our economic waters. What has been found is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Traditionally devoid of natural resources, Israel has found a bonanza of natural gas off its shores, seeing in it a path to energy independence. The Tamar natural gas field has been producing the gas mainly for local consumption since 2013, while at the end of this year the even larger Leviathan field is expected to start production both for the local market and exports. Now, speakers at the conference said, Israel’s flourishing tech industry should jump on the bandwagon and help develop technologies for the future.

The SSCV Thialf crane vessel laying the newly arrived foundation platform for the Leviathan natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, about 130 kilometers (81 miles) west of the Israeli coastal city of Haifa, January 31, 2019. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/AFP)

The “Digitization and Automation in the Gas and Oil Industries” was organized by the Israel Innovation Authority for the second year running, drawing senior officials from the local and global oil and gas industries, along with representatives from more than 150 Israeli technology companies. They gathered to discuss industry challenges and opportunities, and for Israeli technology companies to showcase potential solutions across a wide range of fields, including automation and digitization, analytics, AI & machine learning, deep learning, machine vision, artificial and virtual reality, computing systems, cloud environments, unmanned systems, blockchain, and industrial cybersecurity.

The conference speakers emphasized the need to transition to clean energy sources and the role oil and gas companies can play in this sector by teaming up with companies that specialize in renewable energy, energy storage and management.

The global oil and gas industry can be made more efficient through the use of new technologies, the speakers said, and not enough is being done to leverage Israel’s tech prowess in this field because entrepreneurs are not always aware of the industry’s challenges and needs.

The aim of the conference is to create a local ecosystem for technologies in the field of energy and in particular in oil and gas, said Ami Appelbaum, chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority and chief scientist of the Ministry of Economy and Industry.

Illustrative photo of a natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

“There is an extensive technological services industry surrounding the global oil and gas industry, generating hundreds of billions of dollars annually,” he said. “The increasing demand for innovative technologies and groundbreaking solutions constitutes a great opportunity to involve Israel’s tech industry in the global oil and gas industries.”

Make the challenges known

According to data compiled by the Israel Innovation Authority, there are more than 200 companies in Israel that make products or supply services to the oil and gas industries. Most of these companies are active in six main subfields: engineering and construction, control and monitoring, communication and software, advanced security services, water and environment, and counselling and services.

Gil Shaki, senior director of Energy, Sustainability and Infrastructure at the Israel Innovation Authority, said, that the oil and gas markets offer “tremendous opportunities for Israel’s tech industry,” but the “industry isn’t taking sufficient advantage of these opportunities, mainly because Israel’s industrial community is unaware of them or lacks knowledge of how the oil and gas industry operates.”

The conference aims to increase dialogue between global oil and gas companies and Israeli tech companies regarding the challenges in the industry and how innovative solutions can address them, he said.

“This will help establish a new engine of growth for Israel’s technology ecosystem, as it integrates into the global oil and gas industry,” Shaki added

“This conference is special in providing a great opportunity for the US, Israel and other governments to exchange ideas and address mutual challenges in innovation and cyber security,” said Dan Brouillette, deputy secretary at the US Department of Energy, in the statement.

To ensure energy security globally, he said, “we must leverage our collective expertise, experience and resources, and this includes collaborating with allies such as Israel.”

The opening of the US-Israel Center of Excellence “will foster dialogue focusing on water, energy and security,” he added.

No further details about the new center were immediately available.

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