An improved forecast for finding oil at offshore well Leviathan is good news for other companies planning to drill in the area, a geologist from one of the region's major exploration groups said on Monday.

Last week, Texas-based Noble Energy provided a forecast with a 25% probability of geological success for finding oil in the deep layers of the Leviathan field, up from an earlier estimate of about 17%.

"That's significant," said Josh Steinberg, geologist for Israel's Ratio Oil Exploration, one of Noble's partners in Leviathan, which also has drilling rights in the nearby Gal field.

The Leviathan field, discovered in 2010, was the largest deepwater natural gas find of the past decade, with reserves estimated at about 17 trillion cubic feet. The group now hopes to find at least 600 million barrels of oil hidden in a layer beneath the gas.

"If the chances have improved the way that Noble believes they have, of course it directly affects the chances for success for [Ratio's] Gal field," Steinberg told Reuters. "It has implications on the entire Levant basin, including other areas in Israel, Cyprus and Lebanon."

Technical problems forced the Noble-led group to suspend drilling in May after it reached deeper than any other spot in the east Mediterranean's Levant basin.

After formulating a new plan and with a more powerful drill ship, drilling should start up again toward the end of 2013, Steinberg said.

Ratio is currently analyzing its 3D seismic surveys of the 1,600 sq km Gal field, and Steinberg says its geological structure is similar to that of Leviathan to the north.

Drilling there should begin by the end of 2014, he said. (Reuters)