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Noble Energy team in Egypt for talks on importing Israeli gas

Shipments could come from Israel’s offshore Tamar gas field, which US company operates, report says

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

Representatives of the Noble Energy team were in Egypt on Sunday for talks on gas imports from Israel’s offshore fields, Reuters reported Sunday, citing sources in Egypt’s airport and oil ministry.

“Negotiations are under way about the amount of gas that can be imported,” a source in the oil ministry was quoted as saying. A source at the Cairo airport confirmed that a delegation had arrived for several hours for negotiations.

The meeting came several weeks after Israel’s anti-trust authority moved to void the agreement that allows US-based Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Group to develop the Leviathan and Tamar gas sites in the Mediterranean.

However, despite the ongoing legal battle over the fields, the Delek group said Sunday that if a deal was reached, Israel could begin supplying gas to Egypt by 2017.

On December 23, the Antitrust Authority decided to break up a deal allowing a consortium of two energy companies to develop Israel’s largest gas fields, in a dramatic move reversing an arrangement that had come under fire.

The decision meant that Noble and Delek will have to sell their shares in either Leviathan or the smaller Tamar field, or break up the consortium.

The arrangement that was reversed was a compromise between the Antitrust Authority and the two energy companies, according to which they could continue to develop Tamar and Leviathan if they sold their shares in the smaller Karish and Tanin sites.

Leviathan, which boasts an estimated 16-18 trillion cubic feet of gas, was discovered in 2010 some 130 kilometers (81 miles) off the coast of Haifa. It was expected to become operational in 2016, but the Antitrust Authority’s decision could push that back by several years.

Israel began pumping natural gas in March 2013 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 early September, Israel signed a memorandum of understanding with Jordan to supply the Hashemite Kingdom with $15 billion worth of natural gas from its Leviathan energy field over 15 years. However, following the regulator’s announcement, Jordan was said to have called off talks until further notice.

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.

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

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