Israel's Leviathan gas reserves estimate raised by 16 pct

JERUSALEM, July 13 Sun Jul 13, 2014 5:04am EDT

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JERUSALEM, July 13 (Reuters) - The estimated size of natural gas reserves in Israel's Leviathan field has been lifted by 16 percent, partners in the field said on Sunday.

Leviathan, discovered in 2010 off Israel's Mediterranean coast, is the world's largest offshore gas find in the past decade and is expected to provide the country with greater energy independence. Production is slated to begin in 2017.

Based on updated analysis by consultant Netherland Sewall & Associates (NSAI), the reserves estimate was increased to 21.93 trillion cubic feet (620 billion cubic metres) from 18.91 tcf.

The high estimate was raised by 10 percent to 26.52 tcf, while the low estimate was increased by 11 percent to 16.58 tcf.

NSAI estimates that the field holds 39.4 million barrels of condensate, up from 34.1 million.

The increases follows expansion of Leviathan's database, including 3D seismic surveys and laboratory analysis.

Texas-based Noble Energy is the field's operator with a 39.66 percent stake. Avner Oil and Delek Drilling - subsidiaries of Delek Group - hold a combined 45.34 percent and Ratio Oil has the remaining 15 percent.

Delek Drilling said the higher reserves ensure Israel's energy independence for decades to come.

"The dramatic increase in Leviathan's gas reserves gives a wide range of export options and bases Israel's position as a leading player in the international energy map with gas reserves of 1,000 billion cubic metres (bcm)," Delek Drilling CEO Yossi Abu said.

Along with Leviathan's 620 bcm, the Tamar field - which started production last year - has 303 bcm, while two smaller sites hold 58 bcm.

Israel's government has decided to allow exports of up to 40 percent of the gas reserves.

Last month, the partners in Leviathan said they had signed a preliminary agreement with British oil and gas company BG Group to negotiate a deal to export gas to BG's liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Idku, Egypt. (Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by David Goodman)

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