Jordanian minister downplays Israeli role in large gas deal

Mohammad Hamed says US firm Noble Energy will be supplier, though resources will be from Israeli field

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

An aerial view of an Israeli offshore gas rig (Albatross Aerial photography/Noble Energy/Flash90/File)
An aerial view of an Israeli offshore gas rig (Albatross Aerial photography/Noble Energy/Flash90/File)

Rebuffing suggestions of improved ties with israel, Jordan’s Energy and Mineral Resources Minister noted Thursday that an estimated $15 billion gas deal announced Wednesday is not between the Israeli and Jordanian governments, but was rather forged between the Hashemite kingdom’s electric company and the US Noble Energy group.

While downplaying Israel’s role in the deal, Mohammad Hamed conceded that the resources would be drawn from Israel’s Leviathan’s offshore gas fields.

In an interview with the Jordanian daily Ad-Dustour, Hamed added that the letter of intent signed on Wednesday was not binding and insisted that the price had not been fixed yet, but would only be discussed in later negotiations, Israel Radio reported.

However, the minister said the deal would significantly help the national gas company which had suffered financially in past years, after gas exports from Egypt were stopped due to unrest.

The minister told the Jordan Times the deal was worth $15 billion over 15 years, the paper reported in English.

On Wednesday, representatives from Israel’s Delek Group Ltd. and the US Nobel Energy Inc. company signed a memorandum of understanding in Amman, under which it agreed to supply the Hashemite Kingdom with $15 billion worth of natural gas from its Leviathan energy field over a decade and a half.

The new deal marks the largest collaboration with Jordan to date, and will make Israel its chief supplier, according to the Globes business news website.

The final agreement will be subject to the approval of Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom, who is expected to confirm it. According to Globes, the US was involved in the negotiations and US envoy Amos Hochstein was said to attend the signing of the memorandum.

Shalom hailed the agreement, and referred to it as “a historic act that will strengthen the economic and diplomatic ties between Israel and Jordan.”

“At this time, Israel is becoming an energy superpower, which will supply the energy needs of its neighbors and strengthen its standing as a central source of energy supply in the region, and I welcome it,” he said in a statement.

Israel decided last year to export 40 percent of the country’s offshore gas finds, and has since signed a 20-year, $1.2 billion deal with a Palestinian firm, and in June signed a letter of intent to supply energy to an Egyptian facility as well.

In February, Israel signed a deal with Jordan to supply $500 million worth of gas to the Hashemite kingdom from the Tamar natural gas field in the Mediterranean.

In March 2013, Israel began pumping natural gas from the Tamar deposit — discovered in 2009 and located some 90 kilometers (56 miles) west of Haifa — which holds an estimated 8.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

In addition to Tamar, in 2010 an even larger deposit, Leviathan — which boasts an estimated 16-18 trillion cubic feet of gas — was discovered 130 kilometers (81 miles) west of Haifa. It is expected to become operational in 2016.

The finds are expected to transform Israel from an energy importer to a major world player in the gas market.

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