Israel Weighs Gas Export Policy Reforms

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Israel’s energy ministry is planning to launch a fourth offshore oil and gas bid round to attract investors, reversing its former policy of focusing purely on renewables to meet new 2050 net-zero carbon commitments. Policymakers have long argued that Israel must seize on the opportunity to develop its gas reserves to supply Europe and beyond. The government should reform its gas export policy to complement this new direction, but a renewed push could be further delayed, Israeli industry sources tell Energy Intelligence.

Last year, the energy ministry proposed relaxing the current gas export policy requiring producers to allocate 60% of gas volumes to the local market with the remainder intended for exports. It recommended allocating 60% of volumes for export instead. The ministry said the country’s plan to increase renewables’ share in power generation from the current 17% to 30% by 2030 could free up more gas for exports. It also warned the country could face stranded gas assets based on International Energy Agency forecasts showing Israel has 20-25 years before gas demand declines.

But timing might not be on the side of reform. The country is set to hold its fifth election in less than four years after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Jun. 20 that he would dissolve the Knesset and call an election, most likely due in November. The oil and gas industry is concerned that the election and the need to form a new cabinet, including selecting an energy minister, will take up time just as Israel needs to show clarity to potential investors. “For now, I am not aware of any revived public consultation process on gas export policies,” a senior industry source says. “It is a good time to change it but I don’t know if the government will be able to do this on the run-up to elections.”

The opportunities are there for the taking. The government estimates Israel’s recoverable reserves at 850 billion cubic meters (31 trillion cubic feet) while the country’s gas industry association estimate the figure closer to 1,000 Bcm. Chevron, operator of the 22 Tcf Leviathan and the 11 Tcf Tamar field along with Israeli partners Delek and Ratio Oil have already held some high-level meetings with European gas buyers. “These happened after the war [in Ukraine] and were more serious and not just friendly exploration,” the industry source says. The ministry confirms it is currently working on the fourth bid round but has yet to publish the details.

In June, Israel and Egypt signed a provisional three-year deal with the EU to ensure a regular supply of gas to Europe. But any Eastern Mediterranean gas is unlikely to materialize before the middle of the decade. Chevron’s original plan to select an export monetization option for a second phase development of Leviathan and potentially of its 4 Tcf Cypriot Aphrodite field has suffered delays linked to a dispute over the boundary delineation of Aphrodite and the smaller Israeli Ishai field. Israel and Cyprus are now working on a joint solution to allow development to proceed after Chevron, Delek and the smaller Israeli owners at Ishai failed to agree a compromise. The issue was discussed at the first trilateral energy minister meeting between Israel, Greece and Cyprus in April, where it was agreed to appoint an external expert to examine the volume of natural gas in the reservoir. Monthly meetings with an arbitrator were also agreed. Cypriot officials say a final investment decision on Aphrodite was due by 2023 with first gas planned for 2025.

Israel is also advancing regional gas export projects. A new onshore pipeline planned to be operational in 2025 will run between Ramat Hovav and Nitzana in southern Israel will link up to the existing Arab Gas Pipeline. The Arab Gas Pipeline runs from El-Arish in Sinai, flows subsea, then travels up through Jordan to Syria with a link to Lebanon. “The [onshore] line is currently in advanced planning stages at the National Council of Building and Planning,” the ministry said. The spur is planned to transport 3-6 Bcm per year.

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