* Noble consortium raises Tamar reserves to 8.4 Tcf from 7.3
* To start Leviathan well exploration in Q4
* Energy shares jump, push broader market higher
(Recasts, adds Noble CEO comments)
By Steven Scheer
JERUSALEM, June 3 Israel is poised to become an
energy exporter after finding much higher than expected natural
gas reserves off its Mediterranean coast, Noble Energy (NBL.N)
said on Thursday.
U.S.-based Noble leads a consortium that includes a number
of Israeli partners drilling for natural gas. The group raised
its reserve estimate at the Tamar field by 15 percent to 8.4
trillion cubic feet (238 billion cubic meters).
Another Noble-led group plans to start gas exploration at
the Leviathan prospect in the fourth quarter of 2010. They said
Leviathan had estimated deposits of 16 Tcf (453 Bcf), twice that
of Tamar, which was the largest global gas find of 2009.
"Today's announcement substantiates the potential of a new
and significant energy basin in the eastern Mediterranean,"
Noble Chief Executive Officer Charles Davidson said in an
"In addition to the increase in estimated Tamar resources,
we have identified significant additional drilling opportunities
nearby which, if successful, could position Israel as a
potential energy exporter in future years."
Shares of Israeli energy shares jumped on the news, pushing
the broader Tel Aviv market up 2.2 percent.
Noble said the Tamar field's first production remained on
schedule for 2010 at a capital investment of $2.8 billion.
"With the Tamar project expected to supply Israel with its
natural gas needs for the next three decades, a discovery at
Leviathan, should there be one, would be earmarked for export,"
Deutsche Bank analyst Richard Gussow said.
He said Asia would be a target market due to the high prices
there and that the Atlantic market would also be targeted due to
Europe's desire to reduce reliance on Russian gas.
"This would likely be through LNG (liquefied natural gas), a
long-term process that we believe would take at least six years
and would require heavy capex investment," Gussow said.
Noble said Leviathan has gross unrisked mean resources of 16
Tcf of gas and a geologic chance of success of 50 percent.
Israeli media quoted Delek Group controlling shareholder
Yitzhak Tshuva as saying there were signs of oil under the
natural gas finds.
Noble owns 36 percent of Tamar while Isramco Negev
(ISRAp.TA) owns 28.75 percent and Delek Group DELKG.TA has a
31 percent stake through two units that have equal shares --
Avner Oil Exploration (AVNRp.TA) and Delek Drilling (DEDRp.TA).
Delek and Avner have 22.7 percent each in Leviathan while
Ratio Oil Exploration (RATIp.TA) holds 15 percent. Noble owns
nearly 40 percent of Leviathan.
Shares of Delek Drilling and Avner jumped some 13 percent,
while Isramco shares were up 8.6 percent in late trading and
Delek Group was up 10.8 percent. The blue-chip Tel Aviv 25 index
.TA25 and broader TA-100 .TA10 were up 2.2 percent.
"Based on its initial interpretation of 2D and 3D seismic
data, the company has estimated the gross unrisked resource
potential on its Eastern Mediterranean acreage to be in excess
of 30 Tcf (850 Bcm)," Noble said.
Israel is also receiving natural gas from Egypt under a
20-year deal signed in 2005.
(Editing by Karen Foster and Hans Peters)