Noble Energy Says Will Decide on Israel Gas Investment in One Year

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Israeli gas platforms controlled by U.S.-Israeli energy group Noble and Delek 15 miles west of Ashdod in the Mediterranean Sea. June 25, 2015.Credit: Reuters

REUTERS - U.S. oil and gas producer Noble Energy Inc said on Monday it would make a final investment decision on two large gas fields in Israel in about a year's time, a day after the country's prime minister promised to fast-track the projects.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he would take control of the Economy Ministry - after a minister who had been holding up the plan stepped down - and give final approval to a framework deal with Noble and Israel's Delek Group .

"Yesterday's announcement from the prime minister's office is a further indication of the commitment to moving forward with gas development," Noble's Chief Executive David Stover said on a post-earnings call on Monday.

Shares of Noble, which cut its 2015 capital budget by $100 million and raised its sale volume forecast for the current quarter, rose nearly 8 percent to $38.56 in morning trade.

The framework deal reached in August gives control of Israel's largest gas field, Leviathan, to a consortium led by Noble and Delek.

Leviathan, a massive field with reserves of 22 trillion cubic feet (tcf), was initially slated to begin production in 2018 with most of the gas earmarked for exports.

However, development has been delayed due to opposition over waiving antitrust laws to give rapid approval to the framework deal.

First production would take about 3-4 years from the final investment decision (FID), Stover said on the call.

Noble also owns a large stake in Tamar, another field offshore Israel's Mediterranean coast that started production in 2013 and has reserves of 10 tcf.

Noble is looking at two separate FIDs for Tamar and Leviathan, Stover said.

The company, which also operates in U.S. shale fields and offshore Gulf of Mexico and West Africa, said it now plans to spend less than $3 billion in 2015.

Noble, which acquired Rosetta Resources in a $2 billion deal earlier this year, raised its fourth-quarter sales volume forecast to 385,000-405,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) from 375,000-400,000 boepd.

The company's net loss was $283 million, or 67 cents per share, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with a profit of $419 million, or $1.12 per share, a year earlier.

The adjusted loss was 21 cents per share, steeper than the average analyst estimate of 18 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total revenue fell 37 percent to $801 million, lagging analysts' estimate of $955.3 million.