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Israel looking to be regional resource powerhouse

A gas deal with Israel sparked protests in Jordan [AFP]

Date of publication: 14 November, 2016

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Israel is looking to be a key exporter of gas with licenses given out on Tuesday for the exploration of new off-shore fields, strengthening its position in the Middle East.

Israel open up bids on Tuesday for controversial licenses to explore parts of the eastern Mediterranean believed to hold natural gas.

Tel Aviv hopes the blocks will offer new discoveries of gas, as the successful exploration of the Tamar and Leviathan natural gas fields did.

Israel hopes the Leviathan field will eventually allow it to become a gas exporter, which could provide it with additional leverage in the turbulent Middle East.

According to the energy ministry, 24 offshore blocks will be offered for exploration in the first round starting Tuesday and ending around March 2017, each up to 400 square kilometres (155 square miles).

The recent approval of a long-delayed natural gas industry framework by the government has cleared the path for Israel to move forward.

The Tamar field, discovered in 2009 and which began production in 2013, has estimated reserves of up to 238 billion cubic metres (8.4 trillion cubic feet). 

Leviathan, discovered in 2010 and set to begin production in 2019, is estimated to hold 18.9 trillion cubic feet (535 billion cubic metres) of natural gas, along with 34.1 million barrels of condensate.

Jordan in September struck a deal to buy 300 million cubic feet (8.5 million cubic metres) of gas per day from the Leviathan over a 15-year term and the Israeli government is seeking additional commitments.

The decision has sparked protests in Jordan, where anti-Israeli sentiments run high.

There is also anger that Palestinians in the coastal enclave of Gaza have not benefited from the gas off its shoreline.

Last month, Israel and Turkey agreed to start discussions on building a gas pipeline to pump Israeli gas to Europe.

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