JERUSALEM, June 13 (Reuters) - A U.S.-Israeli consortium began supplying Israel with natural gas from its offshore Pinnacles well on Wednesday to help stave off a national energy shortage expected this summer.
Israel lost about 40 percent of its natural gas supplies in early 2011 when saboteurs in the Sinai peninsula began attacking the pipeline that carried gas to Israel from Egypt as part of a 20-year deal. In April, Egypt officially terminated the deal, sending Israel scrambling to find alternative power sources.
As a result, the Israeli government instructed all exploration groups in its economic waters, where large reserves of natural gas were recently discovered, to speed up operations.
Texas-based Noble Energy, which leads the Pinnacles group, said they were starting to supply Israel with 150 million cubic feet of gas per day almost a month ahead of schedule.
"Though limited in resource size, this well will provide much-needed gas production rate just in time for the hot summer months," the company said in a statement.
The new supplies will replace more expensive and dirtier fuels Israel has had to turn to, like diesel and fuel oil, and save the economy about $170 million this summer, Noble said.
The $105 million Pinnacles project is located about three kilometers from Noble's Mari-B platform, which is 25 km from the coast and has been supplying Israel with most of its gas.
Noble leads exploration groups that discovered Israel's huge Tamar and Leviathan fields in the eastern Mediterranean.