Noble Energy Works to Avoid Israel Electric Shortage

Aim of the project is to avoid electricity shortages during the hot summer months.

Noble Energy Inc. (IW 500/253) is to hook up two small natural gas fields to Israel's central gas supply to avoid electricity shortages over the summer due to the cut in Egyptian supplies, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Israel currently generates 40% of its electricity from natural gas and until last year, Egypt provided 43% of its gas supplies.

But that supply has been regularly disrupted since an uprising overthrew former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, raising fears of electricity shortages in the Jewish state.

Binyamin Zomer, director of corporate affairs at Noble Energy, said the firm had drilled the Noa and Pinnacle gas fields off the southern Israeli coast, and planned to connect the two by pipeline to the nearby Mari-B platform.

"From there, it will tie into the 30-inch pipeline that brings the gas to shore," he told AFP.

"It will add significant supplies," he said, without specifying exactly how much gas the venture would provide.

The Mari-B platform, also operated by the U.S. energy and gas giant, sits over the Yam Tethys reserve which is depleting faster than expected due to overpumping since the slide in Egyptian supplies, Zomer explained.

"That's right now declining because we demanded more of that well in the absence of Egyptian gas," he said. "We delivered much more than was anticipated early on, when the Egyptian gas stopped coming."

Noble Energy had worked "closely" with the Israeli government on the plans, he said.

"It's something that we've done in order to mitigate the absence of Egyptian gas. The government wants us to do it, our customers want to do it and we wanted to do whatever we could to make sure that gas was delivered to the Israeli market," he told AFP.

Lawson Freeman, Noble's vice president for the Eastern Mediterranean, said the aim of the project was to avoid electricity shortages during the hot summer months.

"Noble is utilizing every technology at its disposal to bring as much gas to Israel as possible and hopes to mitigate the need for alternative fuels in the hot summer months," he said in a statement received by AFP.

The disruptions in gas supply have forced Israel's electrical stations to use coal and diesel fuel, both of which are more expensive, and has prompted the government to consider raising electricity prices by as much as 20%.

In the absence of Egyptian gas, Israel has been pushing for the speedy exploitation of several recently-discovered gas fields off its northern coast.

To that end, it has signed a deal with Cyprus to mark out maritime borders, but it faces challenges from Lebanon which claims the gas fields lie in its territorial waters.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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