Oil/gas rig - AP - Sept. 17, 2010
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The largest reserve of natural gas, over 16 trillion cubic feet, has been discovered off the coast of Israel, and is estimated to be worth more than $95 billion, U.S. company Noble Energy Inc. announced on Wednesday.

Noble Energy owns 39.66% of the prospective discovery, alongside Israeli partners Delek Group Ltd. units Avner Oil and Gas LP and Delek Drilling LP (22.67% each), and Ratio Oil Exploration (1992) LP with 15%.

The reserve, Leviathon, is the largest amount of natural gas discovered in the world in the last decade and is located in approximately 5,400 feet (1,645 meters) of water, about 130 kilometers offshore of Haifa and 29 miles (47 kilometers) southwest of the Tamar discovery.

Last year, Israeli company Isramco announced that reserves of natural gas have been discovered at its Tamar 1 offshore drill site 90 kilometers west of Haifa, making it the largest ever discovered in Israel until now - three times bigger than that of the "Yam Thetis" consortium and worth $15 billion.

Noble Energy CEO Charles Davidson said, "Leviathan is the latest major discovery for Noble Energy and is easily the largest exploration discovery in our history."

CEO of Delek Group Yoram Turbowitz said "it is a sense of success mixed with worry and concern, that we will not be able to utilize the huge discovery in our hands to its limits.

He added: "I hope that the strategic advantage and the enormous accomplishment that we have made here due to large financial and professional knowledge invested will be utilized to its fullest."

"Obviously we need to produce something from the Leviathon reserve, but it will demand enormous investments in infrastructure," he said, adding that "the state will need to assist with regulations, planning and accompanying what will become the largest infrastructure project in the country."

Noble Energy president and COO David L. Stover said, "This discovery has the potential to position Israel as a natural gas exporting nation. For nearly a year now, we have had a team evaluating market possibilities, which includes various pipeline and LNG options. It's our belief that the natural gas resources at Leviathan are sufficient to support one or more of the options being studied. We are excited to be leading the exploration and development in this new basin and look forward to determining the best development option."