Israel Emerging as a Giant Energy Player

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Israel Emerging as a Giant Energy Player

 

By F. William Engdahl

 
Little-noticed by the rest of the world amid the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program and the collapse of the Free Syrian Army is the clear emergence of an entirely new global energy giant in the volatile Middle East. For the first time since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, that country has discovered what seem to be huge reserves not only of natural gas but now also of oil. Not only does it appear that Israel no longer will need to depend on Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil suppliers. Israel seems set to be in direct competition with its Arab OPEC neighbors as well as Iran for world oil and gas markets. This is a huge new geopolitical complication few have even taken into account.

In November this year, the Israeli oil company, Givot Olam, announced that it had confirmed far larger reserves of oil at its Meged 5 site than previously believed. The company estimates that the field contains 3.5 billion barrels of crude oil. There is one problem with that discovery. The well is located on the Green Line, the armistice line of 1948 that formally separates Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories. Hence, it is unclear how much of the new-found oil wealth actually belongs to Israel. The Israelis claim the Meged site is a few dozen meters inside the Green Line. [1] At today’s oil price, the oil would have a market value of almost $400 billion, enough to have a good fight over.
 
But Meged new discoveries are far from all. On December 17, Noble Energy, the US partner of Israeli oil companies, Avner and Delek Drilling, announced new discoveries of oil in the waters between Cyprus and Israel in the Eastern Mediterranean.  They estimate some 3 billion barrels of oil may lie in deepwater strata between Cypriot and Israeli offshore fields.
 
The company announced from its Houston Texas headquarters, “Significant exploration potential remains on the Company’s acreage position in the Eastern Mediterranean, with approximately 3 billion barrels of gross unrisked oil potential in the deep Mesozoic play in both Cyprus and Israel and four trillion cubic feet gross of natural gas potential in Cyprus. Current plans are to resume exploration drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean in late 2014 or early 2015.” [2]
In 2010 Noble Energy and its Israeli partners announced the largest new gas field discovery of the decade. A huge gas field in the waters off Tel Aviv towards Cyprus called Leviathan was discovered with enough gas to supply Israel’s needs for perhaps a century and allow her to become a major competitor in the booming natural gas markets in the EU and elsewhere. Two years before Noble and the Israelis had discovered the smaller Tamar field nearby. [3] In March of this year, 2013, Tamar gas began to flow direct to Haifa for the Israeli Electric Company. Suddenly Israeli dependence on her Arab neighbors for gas imports was disappearing.
Then in February this year the Israeli companies Delek and Avner signed an agreement to acquire a 30 percent stake in exploration rights off the southern coast of Cyprus together with Noble Energy. That means Israeli companies have a dominant position in the major gas and potential oil fields not only in Israeli’s offshore Exclusive Economic Zone but also in that of Cyprus. And now Russia’s Putin and the state-owned Gazprom, the world’s largest gas producer, have entered the game.
In February 2013 Gazprom signed a major deal giving Russia a major stake in the future distribution of massive Israeli gas resources from the Tamar field. That deal also included a commitment to build a floating LNG terminal off Cyprus. That Gazprom terminal will convert Israeli and Cypriot gas owned by the Noble-Israeli consortium for onward transmission to Europe or Asia. [4] Delek Energy is in talks on exporting natural gas from Tamar to Cyprus and to South Korea. Shipments to Asia would be by Liquified Natural Gas.
A new Saudi Arabia?
However the real news regarding Israeli energy is the discovery of a mammoth reserve of oil and gas onshore in Israel. Israel has prospective oil shale fields with estimated unconventional oil reserves of more than 250 billion barrels. If that is economically recoverable it would equal the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. The principal oil share deposits are located southwest of Jerusalem in the Shefla basin.
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Israel discovered Leviathan, the largest gas field in recent years in the eastern Mediterranean
The Shefla Basin shale energy reserves are being developed by a group of investors whose members are notable to put it mildly.
The main Israeli developer of the Shefla Basin is a company called Israeli Energy Initiatives (IEI). IEI is owned by a US based company with the intriguing name, Genie Energy Corporation, a division of IDT Corporation. Among the major shareholders of the mother company of IEI are Jacob Lord Rothschild, the former business partner of just-released Russian oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and scion of the Rothschild banking dynasty. It also includes major Israel supporter, Rupert Murdoch of the News International Corp. And, to add real spice to the cocktail, the new International Advisory Board of the IEI’s parent Genie Energy also includes Dick Cheney, architect of the Iraq war and former CEO of Halliburton, the company that made shale oil and gas technologies feasible about a decade ago. [5]
The exploitation of the Shefla Basin is a major operation. Israel Energy Initiatives has enlisted some of the top people in the global oil industry including a former president of Mobil Oil, Eugene Renna, a former president of Occidental Oil Shale in addition to Halliburton’s Dick Cheney. But the key person is said to be Harold Vinegar, who was Shell Oil’s chief scientist and, with some 240 patents to his name over his 32 years at Shell, who revolutionized the shale oil industry.
Lord Rothschild commented about the potential of the Israeli shale his company is exploiting. He remarked that IEI’s Shefla Basin shale development in the next few years “could transform the future prospects of Israel, the Middle East and our allies around the world.” [6]
What seems to be emerging is a geopolitical potential game changer that within a decade could see Israel emerge as a direct competitor not only of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf OPEC oil countries including gas giant Qatar. It would also pit Israel against Iran.
In 2011 shortly before Israel and Saudi Arabia along with the Obama Administration gave the green light for the terror war that aimed to unseat Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Assad had signed an agreement with Shi’ite Iran and Shi’ite-dominated Iraq for building a gas pipeline from Iran’s mammoth South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf via Iraq and Syria on to Lebanon and the Mediterranean where it would flow to the fast-growing EU gas markets.
Saudi Arabia and Israel, with France, Britain and the US in the background, engaged in a coordinated effort to finance Al Qaeda and other foreign mercenaries to bring chaos to Syria and Lebanon. That chaos has meant no pipeline project to date.
The real agenda behind the Western effort to topple Assad clearly has much to do with the political and geopolitical wars to dominate these vast energy markets.  The X-factor in all this is what role Putin’s Russia will play in the Israeli developments. The verdict is still open but it is clear that Putin is wasting no second in trying to exploit the growing divide between Washington and Tel Aviv to position Russia as a major factor in the emerging Mediterranean energy transformation.
Endnotes:

 


[1] Hydrocarbons Technology, Givot Olam discovers larger oil reserves at Meged 5 site, 5 November 2013, accessed in
http://www.hydrocarbons-technology.com/news/news-givot-olam-discovers-larger-oil-reserves-at-meged-5-site.
[2] Cyprus Mail, Noble reports 3bln barrel oil potential between Cyprus and Israel, December 17, 2013, accessed in
http://cyprus-mail.com/2013/12/17/noble-reports-3bln-barrel-oil-potential-between-cyprus-and-israel/.
[3] Peter C. Glover, Israel the coming energy superpower, 5 April, 2013, accessed in http://www.thecommentator.com/article/3168/israel_the_coming_energy_superpower.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Jerry Gordon, Could Israel’s Shale Oil Development be a Game Changer in World GeoPolitics?, 21 June 2011, accessed in http://www.newenglishreview.org/blog_display.cfm/blog_id/35968.
[6] Ibid.

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