Minister of Energy and Water Resources Silvan Shalom has expressed his hopes that the Jewish state can soon become self-sufficient in vital energy supplies.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
"From now on, Israel can provide its needs for the next decades and we will do everything we can in order to move the Israeli Electric Cooperation from using oil towards gas," says Shalom.
"It's much cheaper and of course it's much cleaner, and from now on the oil energy market will save at least NIS 1 billion every month, it means about $300 million every month. It will give the Israeli companies the option to compete in new markets overseas, and even to compete here (with) the importers that are coming here to Israel."
Israel discovered two large fields, Tamar and Leviathan, in recent years. While gas from the Leviathan has not yet come online, the Tamar field began flowing recently and the deposits are expected to provide Israel with enough natural gas for decades and could transform the country into an energy exporter.
"Tamar has taken care of the domestic market for the next several decades, which means that future discoveries will need to be, at least a portion of them, exported," says Bini Zomer, director of corporate affairs for Noble Energy in Israel.
"Noble is committed to growing the domestic market and to serving the domestic market, but the size of the Tamar discovery, and the size of Leviathan discovery after it means that the domestic market cannot grow fast enough to justify the investments for the domestic market alone."
Tamar, which holds an estimated 8.5 trillion cubic feet is set to begin pumping to the Israeli market while Leviathan which boasts an estimated 18 trillion cubic feet of gas, is expected to go online in 2016. However, as with all energy exploration projects, nothing is a sure thing.
According to Dr. Amit Mor, an Israeli energy specialist, "There are several risks associated with the utilization of the gas from Tamar. Imagine that in two years' time 70% of the electricity, most of the fuel for industry and for transportation and other uses is going to be based on gas from one field located 90 kilometers, 60 miles, offshore (from) Haifa.
"A 150-kilometer (100-mile) pipeline to an offshore platform which is located 25 kilometers or 20 miles, offshore (from) Ashkelon, but also 20 miles offshore (from) Gaza which is subject to a strategic threat. A threat of missile attacks."
Nearby Cyprus is also hopeful for tapping in to the hydrocarbon boom which could provide much needed funds for the island which is undergoing an acute economic crisis.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides says, "We are in consultations with Israel to cooperate, something that has not been finalized yet because I think we must show understanding that Israel is deciding about all of these matters in the coming months."
One unpredictable factor is Turkey, which doesn't recognize Cyprus as a sovereign country and strongly objects to its gas exploration activities. However, with surrounding waters estimated to hold at least 60 trillion cubic feet of gas, European states will be encouraging Israel and Cyprus to bring the new capacity online as soon as possible.