Israel to increase natural gas exports after new offshore discoveries
In 2022, energy companies in Israel produced 21.29 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas, with just 9.21 bcm of it exported. The exports went to Egypt and Jordan.
Total gas reserves in 2022 were estimated at 1,087 bcm.
Now Israel wants to double gas production in the coming years and link with new markets, including Europe, which is looking for new energy sources. And the energy ministry this month auctioned off four exploration zones to groups that include nine companies, five of which were new to the Israeli market.
"This is a moment of opportunity, and we have the possibility to lead to the strengthening of the political status of the State of Israel, in the region and in the world, alongside securing large sources of income for the Israeli economy and securing economic stability for the coming decades", Energy minister Israel Katz said.
Israel first began exporting gas in 2017. By 2022, it has nearly ended its reliance on imports.
The discovery of natural gas has brought considerable economic benefits to the Israeli economy bringing in billions of dollars in revenues to the state and lowering electricity prices. The price of electricity in Israel was nearly 50% lower than in Europe at the end of 2022, according to Israel's Natural Gas Trade Association.
Three reservoirs are currently operating: Tamar, Leviathan and Karish. A new reservoir, Olympus, was discovered in 2022.
Natural gas production from the Tamar field, 90 km west of Haifa, began a decade ago, and in 2017, it began supplying natural gas to Jordan.
Massive gas deposits were discovered in the past 15 years off Israel's Mediterranean coast, but the government set limits on how much can be sold abroad to ensure the local market has enough in the future.
However, finance minister Bezalel Smotrich is pushing against furthering gas exports to maintain Israel's energy independence.
The issue has been hotly debated for years and was reignited last month when Israel's budget director warned that the country risked exporting too much, endangering energy security.
Katz, however, stressed that any decision taken concerning exports would maintain "the right balance between the national and economic interests of the citizens of the State of Israel from the long-term perspective."
"If we take the economic aspect ... and the diplomatic benefit for strengthening Israel's position, surely we need to make the decision to increase the export of gas, according to the quantity needed," Katz said, without giving specific figures.
Last October, Lebanese and Israeli leaders agreed to a US-brokered maritime demarcation deal opening the way for offshore energy exploration.
In June, Israel consented to develop the Gaza Marine natural gas field. The reservoir is 36 kilometres off the coast of the Gaza Strip. It was discovered in 2000 and is estimated to hold 30 BCM of natural gas, much more than is needed to power the Palestinian territories, some of which could be exported.
The Gaza marine field has remained undeveloped due to political disputes, conflict with Israel, and economic factors.