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Despite pollution fears, gas flow begins from behemoth Leviathan field

Noble Energy performs gas rig flushing test overnight, and begins extracting gas and sending it to Israel, overruling opposition from locals, environmentalists.

The Environmental Protection Ministry said Monday that Noble Energy and its partners had met all the necessary conditions to begin pumping gas, paving the way for the rigs to begin extracting the estimated 22 trillion cubic feet of gas trapped underground.

At 2 a.m. Tuesday morning, Noble was to begin a gas rig test that is necessary ahead of starting operations. Several hours later gas began flowing, and was set to reach a peak in the early afternoon, according to Channel 13 news.

The first gas will reach Israel’s shores via the pipes within 24 to 48 hours from the start of production, the companies estimated.

Located in the Mediterranean Sea 125 kilometers (77 miles) west of Haifa, the Leviathan field is estimated to hold 22 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, and a potential half a million barrels of oil, according to estimates provided by the partners in the field.

Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. and its partners in Leviathan — including Delek Drilling LP, a unit of the Delek Group Ltd., and Ratio Oil Exploration 1992 LP — discovered the field, one of the largest deep-water natural gas finds in the world, in 2010. The project is the largest funded by private capital in Israel’s history.

Noble and its partners have invested $3.75 billion to date in the first stage of development of the reservoir, the companies have said. The nearby Tamar field —  Israel’s second-largest find, also owned by Noble, Delek and Israeli firm Isramco Negev 2, LP — started producing gas in 2013 and has been supplying the country. It holds some 10 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas, half of the amount held in Leviathan.

The two fields, along with the smaller Karish and Tanin fields that are set to start production in 2021, are seen as a bonanza for a nation that has traditionally been starved of natural resources. They also provide a stable source of locally produced energy from four different fields, leading to a more secure supply that is enough to feed all of Israel’s electricity needs for decades.

The Leviathan partners have signed two significant export contracts, with Egypt and Jordan, which are seen to help strengthen ties with the two neighboring countries with which Israel has peace agreements.

Israel has been exporting gas from the Tamar field to Jordan since January 2017, but the Leviathan deals are considered to be bigger and more significant for the economy.