Israel's chief geologist says latest bidding round offers changes and upgrades

By Kurt Abraham, Editor-in-Chief, World Oil on 2/22/2019

HOUSTON -- The history of Israel’s gas and oil development can be subdivided into two distinct periods: 1955 to 1995, and 1999 to today. In the first period, roughly 450 wells were drilled onshore and offshore Israel. The onshore Heletz oil field was discovered in the 1950s, and has produced a 17 MMbbl since then. Light oil shows were found in just three offshore wells.

But in the second period, from 1999 forward, everything changed. The first commercial discovery of natural gas occurred in 2000, and soon gas had been found in several shallow offshore reservoirs, including Noa, Mari B, Or and Nir fields. Commercial gas production began from Mari B in 2004. This was followed by discovery of the giant Tamar and Leviathan gas fields in deep offshore reservoirs, in the Tamar sands.

More gas was discovered in the deep offshore reservoirs, resulting in Karish, Tanin, Tamar SW and Shimshon gas fields. First gas was supplied to shore from the Tamar platform in 2013, connected to Tamar field with a 150-km tie-back. During 2014-2015, the government’s newly formulated gas policy allowed the start of development of Leviathan and Karish gas fields. They are slated to be connected to shore during 2019-2020. And in 2016-2017, the country’s era of licensing rounds began, when the first offshore bidding resulted in the granting of six new exploration licenses and the entry of a new major operator to the basin.

Now, according to Israel’s chief geologist, Dr. Michael (Miki) Gardosh, the Ministry of Energy has launched a “Second Offshore Bid Round,” which contains a number of improvements over the first round. “We introduced a lot of changes and upgrades,” said Gardosh. “One big change is offering ‘clusters’ or ‘zones.’ There are five of these in the new round, and in each one, we have some very good targets. Gardosh was in Houston for the recent North American Prospect Expo’s (NAPE) international section and visited with World Oil.
“We actually point out the targets and have relatively loose work commitments, up to seven years,” continued Gardosh. “This combination of relatively big areas and proximity to existing fields should make this round attractive. And this is proving to be of interest to big companies, due to the proximity to Europe.” In all, there are 19 blocks on offer that comprise the new round’s five clusters/zones. Receipt of bids was opened on Nov. 18, 2018, and will conclude on June 19.

At present, Israel, said Gardosh, is consuming 11 Bcm of gas annually, with some exports. “By 2040, we’ll probably consume 25 Bcm. This is in line with a national strategy to move from coal to natural gas in generating electricity, as well as a move away from petroleum—by 2030, the country expects to ban all imports of fuel-based cars. Meanwhile, industries are also switching toward gas consumption.
As regards offshore fields in operation and under development, Gardosh said that Marubei field, which went online in 2004, is “nearly exhausted.” In contrast, giant Leviathan field is set to go onstream in late 2019. “The platform will be in the northern part of our offshore, which is a departure from previous fields, where the installations have been farther south,” explained the chief geologist. “The jacket, which was built in Corpus Christi (Texas) was installed [three] weeks ago. And the topsides will come in the second half [of the year]. Meanwhile, at Karish field, the first FPSO to be installed in Israeli waters will be connected in 2021. “There are 55 Bcm of proved gas reserves there,” said Gardosh. “That will create security of supply for us.”

Onshore, “there has only been moderate success,” said Gardosh. “But recently, a well was drilled by Zion, south of Tiberia. It was a ‘dry’ well with oil shows, but not a commercial producer. But they’re (Zion) still optimistic that they can produce from the general area. I hope they’ll continue.”

A larger, more complete version of this interview with Dr. Miki Gardosh will appear in the April 2019 issue of World Oil.

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