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December 30, 2010

Israel Finds Huge Natural Gas Deposit Off Its Shore

Game changer?

On Wednesday, the frenzy got fresh fuel: Noble confirmed its earlier estimates that the field contains 16 trillion cubic feet of gas—making it the world's biggest deepwater gas find in a decade, with enough reserves to supply Israel's gas needs for 100 years.

It's still early days, and getting all that gas out of the seabed may be more difficult than it seems today. But Noble and its partners think the field could hold enough gas to transform Israel, a country precariously dependent on others for energy, into a net-energy exporter.

I'm guessing energy starved countries in Europe and around the world are suddenly going to have a new found respect for their favorite whipping boy. It's one thing to beat up a relatively poor country with nothing you need, it's quite another to deal with an increasingly prosperous country that exports a vital commodity. Ask the various Gulf states how they'd be treated if they weren't sitting on so much Black Gold.

As Eli Lake imagined it on Twitter (where I first saw this):

Dear Europe, Stop trying our officials in absentia and maybe we'll give u better prices than Gazprom. Yours, Israel

Naturally, no good thing is ever cost free. The usual suspects are using this to stir up trouble.

Despite these problems, Israel's gas find is making waves abroad. Lebanon has staked out its own claim to offshore gas. In August, lawmakers in Beirut rushed the country's first oil-exploration law through its normally snarled parliament.

Lebanon's oil minister, Gebran Bassil, an ally of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, said in late October that his ministry hopes to start auctioning off exploration rights by 2012.

Iran, Israel's arch-nemesis and Hezbollah's chief backer, has also weighed in. Tehran's ambassador to Lebanon, Qazanfar Roknabadi, last month claimed that three-quarters of the Leviathan field actually belongs to Lebanon.

Mr. Landau, the Israeli infrastructure minister, denied the claim and warned Lebanon that Israel wouldn't hesitate to use force to protect its mineral rights.

No doubt the Obama administration is hard at work trying to figure out how to force Israel into not only a freeze on settlement construction but also an off-shore drilling moratorium.

It's going to be awhile before they can start exploiting this find but it seems a new and large variable has been added to the complex Mideast equation.


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posted by DrewM. at 01:30 PM

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