Woodside Says It Is Committed to Israel, Regardless of Natural Gas Export Quota

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Australia’s Woodside Petroleum said Thursday it remains committed to buying a key stake in the Leviathan natural gas field, no matter how much of the output it will be allowed to export.

In December, Woodside − Australia’s biggest oil and gas firm − agreed to buy 30% of the Leviathan prospect for $1.25 billion. Finalizing the deal has been on hold due to Israel’s general election in January and the subsequent establishment of a new coalition government.

“We are committed to making the investment in Israel in full and operate in Israel’s natural gas market and the Leviathan well,” Woodside CEO Peter Coleman told Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom during a meeting in Tel Aviv Thursday, according to a statement from Shalom’s office.

The field is located 130 kilometers offshore from Haifa and has estimated gas reserves of 520 billion cubic meters, which is equivalent to almost a year’s worth of European gas demand and enough to cover Israel’s gas needs for generations.
Leviathan is expected to begin production in 2016 and is mostly slated for export − via a liquefied natural gas facility − since the Tamar field which started output last month can meet Israel’s gas needs for decades.

Last August, the government’s Tsemach committee recommended that Israel set aside 450 billion cubic meters of gas, enough to satisfy its domestic needs for 25 years, and allow 500 BCM to be exported, though the recommendations have yet to be formally approved. However, there have been calls by policymakers to decrease the amount allotted for exports.

“In any case, there won’t be zero gas exports,” Shalom said. “We will do everything to attract foreign companies to operate and invest in Israel, and make new discoveries.”

Shalom said there is a need to find the right balance between preserving natural resources for future generations and attracting foreign firms to invest in Israel.
Coleman urged Shalom to quickly confirm the committee’s conclusions and implement them, saying that exports was the main way to lower natural gas costs. Shalom said the issue of natural gas exports would be decided at a cabinet meeting next month.

Under the deal with Woodside, Noble Energy − which will remain the upstream operator − will sell 9.7% of its 39.7% share in Leviathan.
Delek Drilling and Avner will each give up 7.7% of their 22.7% stakes. Ratio will sell a third of its 15% stake.

A drilling rig in the Leviathan gas field in the Mediterranean. Credit: Albatross