Noble urges Israel to finalize gas exports to unlock investment

Noble Energy Inc., the U.S. explorer behind the largest natural-gas discovery in Israel, urged the government to finalize plans for fuel exports to unlock investment in the fields.

The Noble-led venture is examining plans to develop the Leviathan gas field, the world’s largest find of its kind in a decade before 2010. The Houston-based explorer is looking for a partner to invest about $5 billion to build a liquefied natural gas plant in Israel or Cyprus to export the fuel.

Israel should allow as much as 500 billion cubic meters (18 trillion cubic feet) of gas for exports, a committee headed by Ministry of Energy and Water Resources Director-General Shaul Tzemach recommended in August. The panel also proposed that half of any field containing more than 200 billion cubic meters should be reserved for domestic use.

The recommendation “needs to be finalized by the government. It’s a critical component,” Noble Chief Executive Officer Charles Davidson told reporters today in London. “We can’t make any decisions about how to go forward on any of these projects until we know what is the appropriate level of exports that are going to be allowed.”

Noble and partners have discovered about 35 trillion cubic feet of gas resources in Eastern Mediterranean, Davidson said. The committee tried to find a proper balance between the security of domestic supply and allowing exports to attract foreign investment.

“It has a fair balance between reserving resources for the state of Israel and also allowing monetization of gas resources,” Davidson said. “We have to understand what is going to be allowed for exports out of the region. There is a lot of work to be done.”