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Natural Gas: What it Means for Israel and Europe

Amidst the almost unbroken gloom and doom (mostly well-justified) about just about everything in our fracturing world it is a pleasure, for a change, to write about a development that is almost entirely good news. Israel, for the first 50 years of its existence, was almost totally devoid of natural resources, with the exception of some potash exports from the Dead Sea area. This was the basis of the joke that God promised the Israelites that he would lead them to a land of milk and honey, but he neglected to mention that all the oil and gas would go to others.

Finally, in 1999, Noble Energy of the United States and the Delek Group of Israel began to plan and then carry out exploration and development of natural gas reserves off the coast of Israel. Ten years later the Tamar commercially-viable gas field was discovered and development began. Two years later the massive Leviathan field was also discovered and is now in the course of development. Other large fields have in the meantime been identified in Cypriot, Lebanese and Egyptian waters.

Having no experience with natural resource development, both the legal and regulatory structure of Israel was unprepared for the discovery of a major resource off-shore. This led to several delays while commissions were formed and prepared their reports, political considerations were dealt with and a concerted effort on the part of environmental groups in league with certain Israeli officials to stop the development of Leviathan was finally overcome.

Now that gas is flowing from Tamar and will soon be flowing from Leviathan, it is time to step back and assess what all of this means for Israel in particular and the Middle East in general, as well as the significance for natural gas producers and consumers outside the region.

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