Israel begins natural gas production

Photo: Israel begins natural gas production / Israel

Israel on Sunday began receiving gas from a large off-shore reservoir, the result of a long-term project designed to reduce its energy dependance and boost the economy, dpa reported.

"Today we are really in a new era," Energy Minister Silvan Shalom said, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noting that the country was taking "an important step toward energy independence."

Four years after drilling started, the first gas began streaming at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT) Saturday from the Tamar field in the Mediterranean Sea, the Israeli Energy and Water Ministry said.

It took 24 hours for the gas to travel from a platform some 90 kilometres west of the northern Israeli port of Haifa to a facility in the southern port of Ashdod through a 150-kilometre-long pipeline.

The Israeli treasury is hoping to earn a massive 450 billion Israeli shekels (about 123 billion dollars) from the gas over the next 25 years.

Israel's central bank said in a report last month that gas earnings would add a full percentage point to gross domestic product growth, which is now estimated at 3.8 per cent for 2013.

The supply from the Tamar reservoir also ends a two-year shortage in Israel, the result of Egypt's cancellation of its gas supply agreement with the Jewish state. Egypt ended the agreement after militants in the Sinai peninsula again and again blew up the pipeline supplying Israel.

A number of partners - Nobel Energy, Isramco, Delek Drilling, Avner and Dror Gas - invested some 3.5 billion dollars in connecting the Tamar reservoir to the Israeli coast.

The Tamar field was discovered in 2009 and contains an estimated 275 billion cubic metres of gas. A year later the Leviathan field, located several dozen kilometres further off-shore, was discovered. With an estimated 500 billion cubic metres, it is said to be one of the world's larger off-shore natural gas finds of the past decade.

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