New US-Israel R&D center to get $16 million for advancing energy tech
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New US-Israel R&D center to get $16 million for advancing energy tech

Run by the BIRD Foundation, the joint initiative will be funded by the private and public sectors in Israel and the US over five years

Dan Brouillette , Deputy Secretary at the US Department of Energy, left, at a press briefing on the sidelines of Cyber Week at Tel Aviv University, June 26. 2019 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)
Dan Brouillette , Deputy Secretary at the US Department of Energy, left, at a press briefing on the sidelines of Cyber Week at Tel Aviv University, June 26. 2019 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

A new R&D center set up by Israel and the US will tackle finding tech solutions to challenges facing the energy, water, cybersecurity and fossil fuel sectors, Dan Brouillette, Deputy Secretary at the US Department of Energy, said on Wednesday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Cyber Week conference in Tel Aviv, Brouillette said that the center, announced earlier this week, will be financed by funds injected jointly by private and public financing from Israel and the US and will be run by the Israel-US Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation.

“We have fully funded the US share of the center,” Brouillette said at a press briefing.

The US government will put up $4 million into a fund and that will be matched by another $4 million by the private sector in the United State. A similar amount will be injected into the center’s activities by Israel’s public and private sectors, he added, bringing the total amount of funding to $16 million over a period of five years.

“We are establishing an R&D Excellence Center with the US to focus on oil and gas efficiencies,” Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said at a conference in Tel Aviv on Monday at the announcement of the center.

In November the Israeli government issued a tender for the licensing of oil and gas exploration rights off the Israeli coast in the Mediterranean.

An Israeli Navy Sa’ar 5 corvette defends a natural gas extraction platform off Israel’s coast, in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

Brouillette said at the briefing there is a lot of interest among US firms about the tender and the Department of Energy has “reached out” to these firms to “let them know about the tender and the importance of this in the region.”

“We are very interested in promoting the opportunity to American companies,” he said. “We see the development of these types of fields, and more importantly the delivery of gas to the markets around the world, as an important competitive aspect. We think the more competition there is in the market place the better pricing you will see for consumers.”

For nations like those in Europe, he said, this gas supply “presents new options and new diversity of energy supply and sources and that is good for everyone.”

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.

Geologist estimates there are more undiscovered reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean basin.

Israel is tendering 19 new offshore blocks to oil and gas companies. Brazil’s state-run oil firm Petrobras will take part in the tender, Steinitz, the energy minister said in March. Exxon Mobil Corp, in a major policy shift, is also reportedly considering bidding in the auction.

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