* Tamar reserves raised to 8.4 Tcf from 7.3 Tcf
* Discoveries to meet Israel natgas needs for 35 years
* To start Leviathan well exploration in Q4
JERUSALEM, June 3 (Reuters) - A consortium led by Noble Energy (NBL.N) drilling for natural gas off Israel’s coast on Thursday raised its reserve estimate at the Tamar field by 15 percent to 8.4 trillion cubic feet (238 billion cubic meters).
Noble and its Israeli partners have been drilling at three sites off Israel’s shore. The Tamar-1 and Tamar-2 sites are about 90 km (56 miles) off the northern port of Haifa. It is the largest natural gas discovery in Israel.
“In total, Noble Energy’s discoveries represent approximately 35 years of Israel’s natural gas needs at projected 2012 demand rates,” Noble said in a statement.
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.
“The Tamar project remains on schedule for sanction in 2010 and first production in 2012,” Noble said, adding that capital investment for Tamar was estimated at $2.8 billion.
Gideon Tadmor, chief executive of Avner and chairman of Delek Drilling said: “This an important building block in the development of Israel’s energy independence. We and our partners will operate together with the state to realise this potential in order to strengthen Israel’s economy and geo-political standing.”
State-run Israel Electric Corp has said it planned to buy at least 2.7 billion cubic meters of gas from Tamar over 15 years, a deal that could be worth nearly $10 billion.
Noble and its partners also said it would start natural gas exploration at the “Leviathan” prospect off Israel’s coast in the fourth quarter of 2010.
“Leviathan has gross unrisked mean resources of 16 Tcf (453 Bcf) of natural gas and a geologic chance of success of 50 percent,” said Noble, which owns a nearly 40 percent stake in Leviathan.
Delek and Avner have 22.7 percent each in Leviathan while Ratio Oil Exploration (RATIp.TA) holds 15 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.”
Israel is also receiving natural gas from Egypt under a 20-year deal signed in 2005. (Reporting by Steven Scheer; editing by Karen Foster)