Will Israel become a major exporter of natural gas in the near future? Most likely. How about an oil exporter? Maybe. Is there any chance of Israel joining OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries)? With Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Venezuela on the membership committee, probably not.
But the reality is that Israel has already made the largest natural gas discovery – ever – in the Mediterranean and the largest discovery worldwide in 2009. Of course those figures were based on the initial Tamar gas field reserve estimates of 5 trillion (that’s ‘trillion’) cubic feet. Since then the Tamar estimates have jumped to 8.7 trillion cubic feet. But wait, there’s more! The Leviathan field, discovered after Tamar, is estimated to hold an astonishing 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The piece of news offshore operator Noble Energy isn’t ready to make too public yet is that they believe that underneath the natural gas fields, there could be oil. That’s the story offshore.
Onshore, Givot Olam claims the field below their Meged #5 well may hold 1.5 billion barrels of oil (we’ll find out how real that estimate is next month). By the way, the Meged #5 has been pumping oil in the midst of the latest arguments over how big the field may or may not be. Zion Oil & Gas, just yesterday, spudded (began drilling) their Ma’anit-Joseph #3 well. This is Zion’s third attempt to discover commercial quantities of oil in the Ma’anit structure. The first two wells were frustratingly close; they actually extracted oil from the Ma’anit-Rehoboth #2 test well. Zion isn’t going into the Ma’anit-Joseph #3 blind; based on results from the first two wells and their best science, this well will be at the location and depth they need to be to hit commercial oil.
Bottom Line: Israel is not waiting for a major hydrocarbon discovery – it’s already happened – the largest natural gas discovery worldwide in 2009 (of course that was when they believed they only had 5 trillion cubic feet in the Tamar field and before the Leviathan discovery). The Tamar field is 90 kilometers (56 miles) offshore and Leviathan is 130 kilometers (81 miles) out to sea. Producing the offshore gas (bringing to market by building pipelines to onshore facilities) will take a few years (up to five). But it will happen. It’s a pretty good bet that all of Israel’s domestic natural gas needs (that includes electricity) will be fully supplied and that more than a few European and the Japanese households (at least) will be heating their morning tea with Israeli natural gas in the next decade. Up until 2009 nobody imagined that Israel could supply her own needs, let alone become a world exporter of natural gas. In 2019 it will be a major Israeli export.
Is oil far behind? I don’t think so. If oil and gas is discovered onshore in the near future, it will most likely beat the offshore gas to market. If a lot of oil is discovered – beyond Israel’s domestic needs – oil is much easier (and quicker) to export than natural gas.
Little old Israel, a major energy exporter – imagine that! Of course Israel has accomplished a lot of things in the last sixty-plus years the world never imagined. That may be because the world doesn’t know it’s Bible as well as it should. About 2,700 years ago Israel (the northern kingdom) was decimated by her enemies (ancestors of some of the same enemies Israel has today) and many in Israel were taken as captives back to conquering Assyria. Later the Babylonians conquered Assyria, but Israel remained captives in exile, away from their home land. In this dark time an Israeli living in exile, his name was Yechezk’el, saw a vision of his people’s future. He saw dry bones coming together to form a nation of people, he saw a wasteland spring to life and become a garden. Yechezk’el’s (we westerners use the name Ezekiel) vision of dry bones became reality on May 14, 1948 when Israel, after 1,900 years of exile, became a nation. In 1948, the Land of Israel wasn’t too different from the ‘wasteland’ Ezekiel saw in his vision. Today the ‘wasteland’ has become a garden. In Ezekiel’s vision G-d made a promise to the Land of Israel: “I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more before.” (Ezekiel 36:11)
A nation of people from dry bones … wasteland springing into gardens … a nation in exile for 1,900 years returning to its homeland and prospering today more than in any time in history … imagine that!