JERUSALEM May 29 Israel's Infrastructure
Ministry said on Sunday it has instructed U.S.-firm Noble Energy
not to resume drilling at the Leviathan natural gas field until
it provides details about an earlier mishap, sending energy
shares sharply lower.
Oil and gas producer Noble Energy (NBL.N) had announced a
few weeks ago it suspended the drilling of its second well at
the off-shore prospect in the eastern Mediterranean after it
identified water flowing to the sea floor from the wellbore.
"As required by the Infrastructure Ministry, Noble will
submit in the coming days a detailed test report on the problem
that will include a description of its findings and the steps
the company is taking to prevent similar problems in the
future," the ministry said in a statement.
The company is also required to present an "abandonment
plan" of the faulty drilling site -- which was meant to further
confirm the size of the gas reserves -- and after receiving
permission, carry it out, the ministry said.
Production at Leviathan is expected to begin around 2017,
and it was unclear if this would affect the schedule, an
official at the Infrastructure Ministry said.
Leviathan, 80 miles (130 km) off the Mediterranean port of
Haifa, was the largest deepwater natural gas find in the past
decade, the exploration group said.
Noble owns 39.66 percent of Leviathan, while Delek Energy's
(DLEN.TA) subsidiaries Avner Oil (AVNRp.TA) and Delek Drilling
(DEDRp.TA) each own 22.67 percent. Ratio Oil (RATIp.TA) owns the
remaining 15 percent.
The partners in December confirmed earlier estimates that
the site contained some 16 trillion cubic feet of gas at
Delek Energy shares dipped 2.9 percent, Delek Drilling
slipped 2.8 percent, Avner declined 2.6 percent and Ratio slid 7
IBI Investment House analyst Guil Bashan said the mishap
illustrates the risks and challenges of deep sea exploration.
"The financial significance of the (halt) is negligible and,
therefore, in our estimation (investors) should take advantage
of the drops and buy," Bashan said in a note to clients.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Steven Scheer and Jon