UPDATE 1-Noble Energy expects to double in size in 5 years

Thu Apr 11, 2013 7:04am EDT

HERZLIYA, Israel, April 11 (Reuters) - Texas-based Noble Energy will double in size in the next five years, with a big boost coming from natural gas production in the eastern Mediterranean, its chief executive said on Thursday.

"We expect to double in size over the next five years. Double in size in terms of production, double in size in cash flow, double in size in terms of reserves," CEO Charles Davidson told reporters during a visit to Israel.

Noble is leading a number of consortia drilling for and producing gas off the Israeli and Cypriot shores, and it has already discovered an estimated 35 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of reserves over the past few years.

Israel's Tamar field, discovered by Noble in 2009, holds an estimated 10 tcf. It went online on March 30 and can meet the country's gas needs for decades.

The much larger Leviathan field, set to begin production around 2016, is mostly slated for exports.

The discoveries were a welcome surprise in Israel, which has relied heavily on energy imports. Analysts have said the deposits are ideally situated to serve both Europe and Asia.

Nobel, which had a 2012 market capitalisation of $17.6 billion, forecasts end-2013 total production to be 300 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day (MBoe/d).

The company is exploring a number of options to export the gas from Israel, Davidson said, including pipelines and floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessels.

A tentative rapprochement between once close allies Turkey and Israel is expected to kick-start joint energy projects in the region. Relations had crumbled after Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara ship en route to the blockaded Gaza Strip in 2010 and killed nine Turks.

Davidson said Noble had not been engaged in direct discussions with Turkey, but that the company had looked at a number of different pipeline options.

Lawson Freeman, who heads operations for the company in the eastern Mediterranean, said discussions with Israel's neighbours were mostly in an "exploratory phase".

"None of them have been to the level of the detailed negotiations obviously that have been within Israel, but all of those have been explored," Freeman said.

Noble also plans to start an appraisal drilling off Cyprus by June to verify previous findings of offshore gas.

Davidson said there have been no delays in operations due to the economic crisis in the island state.

"The reverse has happened, there is actually now even a greater desire by the Republic of Cyprus for us to accelerate that project because of the belief, as we all know, that once things go on stream they bring economic benefits to the country," he said.

Noble has operations in the United States, the Gulf of Mexico and west Africa.

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