Israel: Gas, Oil and Trouble in the Levant by Felicity Arbuthnot

by Felicity Arbuthnot
Writer, Dandelion Salad
London, England
December 28, 2013

Israel is set to become a major exporter of gas and some oil, if all goes to plan. The giant Leviathan natural gas field, in the eastern Mediterranean, discovered in December 2010, is widely described as “off the coast of Israel.”

At the time the gas field was:

“…the most prominent field ever found in the sub-explored area of the Levantine Basin, which covers about 83,000 square kilometres of the eastern Mediterranean region.” (i)

Coupled with Tamar field, in the same location, discovered in 2009, the prospects are for an energy bonanza for Israel, for Houston, Texas based Noble Energy and partners Delek Drilling, Avner Oil Exploration and Ratio Oil Exploration.

Also involved is Perth, Australia-based Woodside Petroleum, which has signed a memorandum of understanding for a thirty percent stake in the project, in negotiations which have been described as “up and down.” There is currently speculation that Woodside might pull out of the deal:

“…since the original plans to refrigerate the gas for export were pursued when relations between Israel and Turkey were strained. That has changed, more recently, which has opened the door for gas to be piped to Turkey.”

The spoils of the Leviathan field has already expanded from an estimated 16.7 trillion cubic feet (tcf ) of gas to nineteen trillion – and counting:

“We’ve discovered nearly 40 tcf of gas, and we have roughly 19 tcf of that gas that’s available for export to both regional and extra-regional markets. We see exports reaching 2 billion cubic feet a day in capacity in the next decade. And we continue to explore.”, stated Noble Vice Chairman Keith Elliot (ii) There are also estimated to be possibly six hundred million barrels of oil, according to Michael Economides of (“Eastern Mediterranean Energy – the next Great Game.”)

Woodside Petroleum might also be hesitant to become involved in further disputes, since they are already embroiled, with the Australian government, in a protracted one in East Timor relating to the bonanza of energy and minerals beneath the Timor Sea, which has even led to East Timor accusing Australia “of bugging East Timorese officials during the negotiations over the agreement.” (iii)

Woodside’s conflict in East Timor however, may well pale against what might well erupt over the Leviathan and Tamar fields. The area is not for nothing called the Levantine Basin. Whilst Israel claims them as her very own treasure trove, only a fraction of the sea’s wealth lies in Israel’s bailiwick as maps (iv, v) clearly show. Much is still unexplored, but currently Palestine’s Gaza and the West Bank between them show the greatest discoveries, with anything found in Lebanon and Syria’s territorial waters sure to involve claims from both countries.

In a pre-emptive move, on Christmas Day, Syria announced a deal with Russia to explore 2,190 kilometres (850 Sq. miles) for oil and gas off its Mediterranean coast, to be: “… financed by Russia, and should oil and gas be discovered in commercial quantities, Moscow will recover the exploration costs.”

Syrian Oil Minister, Ali Abbas said during the signing ceremony that the contract covers “25 years, over several phases.”

Syria, increasingly crippled by international sanctions, has seen oil production plummet by ninety percent since the largely Western fermented unrest began in March 2011. Gas production has nearly halved, from thirty million cubic metres a day, to 16.7 cubic metres daily.

The agreement is reported to have resulted from “months of long negotiations” between the two countries. Russia, as one of the Syrian government’s main backers, looks set to also become a major player in the Levant Basin’s energy wealth. (vi)

Lebanon disputes Israel’s map of the Israeli-Lebanese maritime border, filing their own map and claims with the UN in 2010. Israel claims Lebanon is in the process of granting oil and gas exploration licenses in what Israel claims as its “exclusive economic zone.”

That the US in the guise of Vice President Joe Biden, as honest broker, acting peace negotiator in the maritime border dispute would be laughable, were it not potential for Israel to attack their neighbour again. In a visit to Israel in March 2010, Biden announced: “There is absolutely no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel’s security- none at all”, also announcing on arrival in Israel: “It’s good to be home.”

Given US decades of “peace brokering” between Israel and Palestine, this is already a road of pitfalls, one-sidedness and duplicity, well traveled. There is trouble ahead.

Oh, and in demonology, Leviathan is one of the seven princes of Hell.







from the archives:

War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields by Michel Chossudovsky

9 thoughts on “Israel: Gas, Oil and Trouble in the Levant by Felicity Arbuthnot

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  4. Thanks for comments, much appreciated. David Llewellyn Foster, I agree entirely, this is mega explosive. The ramifications make even the mind boggling of the last years – Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, sabre rattling Iran, pale. Further, I just discovered this, which makes even the estimates of this vast bonanza I gave, pale:

    In their: “Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of the Levant Basin Province, Eastern Mediterranean”, the US Department of the Interior’s US Geological Survey, wrote in 2010: “We estimated a mean of 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and a mean of 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas in this province using a geology based assessment methodology.”

    Can this be the same US who has been telling us since 2011 that they were only considering going in to Syria to protect the people and that there was negligible oil which was any way running out? (ie: “this is not another Iraq.) Incidentally whilst it looks as if most finds are in Gaza etc, that’s because it has been the most intensely prospected. The whole region looks to be super rich in oil and gas. Scary times. Again. Best, felicity a.

    • Thank you Felicity for your valued response.

      I’m away to the Real Farming Conference (Colin, Ruth Tudge et al.) in Oxford next week, focusing on agro-ecological solutions that minimise petro-chemical inputs ~ I have a spare early-bird ticket for the agrarian renaissance sessions if you know anyone that might be interested…

      I’m not a geological engineer, but I’d like to know whether it is feasible to extract gas without disturbing oil deposits, and thus avoid damaging the aquatic environment, since the implications for the marine ecosystem of a full-scale toxic “treasure” hunt will be utterly dire.

    • Actually, looks to me that substantial well-access to the main gas field is in Gazan waters. No wonder they are determined to “push the Palestinians into the sea.”

      It’s guaranteed the Hexagon pirates will try to claim excessive off-shore ocean rights, & it’ll be an energy grab of gigantic proportions with dire implications for the entire eastern basin.

      This is literally an explosive situation. The UN had better concentrate hard on the Med. Mandala and figure out a fair, workable treaty ~ or else….

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