Israel Plans to Export Too Much Natural Gas, Leading Geologist Says

Yossi Langotsky, who predicted the discovery of gas off the coast, says Israel must first build up a strategic reserve, then export

Eran Azran
Eran Azran
Yossi Langotsky, May 24, 2017
Yossi Langotsky, May 24, 2017Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Eran Azran
Eran Azran

Yossi Langotsky, the geologist who predicted the discovery of Israel’s major natural gas reserves, has criticized his country’s plans to export nearly half its gas discovered to date.

“There are no more chances of finding major gas reserves in Israel,” he told TheMarker in response to comments by government officials that Israel could export current volumes and simply find more.

Langotsky was also responding to remarks by a senior researcher for the Institute for National Security Studies, Oded Eran, who told TheMarker last week that exporting gas to Egypt was important for Israel’s energy economy as well as its geopolitical and security interests.

Eran said Israel was unlikely to be able to export gas to Turkey or Europe, thus Egypt was the only real option aside from the local market.

Langotsky called Eran’s statements irresponsible.

“The export deals with Egypt are shortsighted and irresponsible — Israel has some 1 trillion cubic meters of gas,” Langotsky said, noting that the Tzemach committee charged with charting Israel’s natural gas economy in 2012 called for exporting a bit under half the 1 trillion.

>> Analysis | With exports to Jordan and Egypt, Israel becoming key player in Mideast gas markets

“According to the committee’s forecast, the remainder should supply us for about 25 years, of which five years have already passed. And what happens after that?”

Exporting gas when Israel has only 1 trillion cubic meters of proven reserves is a bad decision, Langotsky said.

“I’m concerned that the argument that we have no reason to worry because we’re likely to find lots more gas has no geological basis,” he said. “We could seriously harm our energy future.”

Israel should not export gas unless more fields are discovered, Langotsky said, calling Israel’s politicians shortsighted. “In 20 years, when the gas runs out, they won’t be around to answer for their slipups,” he said.

“A responsible country that had a one-off miracle would plan 40 years ahead.”

Langotsky said he hopes the Adiri committee charged with revising the Tzemach recommendations addresses this, ensuring that Israel has a national gas reserve; natural gas companies would be allowed to export only once this reserve was secured.

He had sharp words for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, whom he said seem to think Israel has a lot more gas in its territorial waters simply waiting to be found. If this were the case, foreign companies would have responded to Israel’s invitations for bids to carry out exploration. Any additional gas reserves are small, deep and risky to extract, Langotsky said.

Contrary to what many observers in Israel believe, Egypt does not need Israel’s gas; Israeli gas exports to Egypt are likely to be sent to third countries, Langotsky said, noting that Egypt’s Noor gas field is likely to make the country an energy powerhouse.

Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan offshore gas reserves plan to export gas to Egypt’s Dolphinus consortium of private businesses. The deal, worth an estimated $15 billion, means gas would have to be sent through a pipeline in northern Sinai.

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