Israel's New Natural Gas Bonanza Could Ignite Conflict With Lebanon

Amidst all its struggles to develop clean and cleaner technologies (and a recent war with Gaza), it seem that Israelis got a huge gift this week: they were celebrating the discovery of a massive estimated 3 trillion cubic feet natural gas pocket found buried 1.5 km below the sea floor, some 90 km off the coastal city Haifa.

Sounds like great news. Shai Agassi from Better Place will finally have the cleaner fuel source to launch his nation-wide electric car scheme in Israel, and Israel can stop buying natural gas from Egypt. But no so fast. Lebanon is staking its claim, saying that the natural gas reserve also belongs to the Lebanese. Could this be the means for Israel to make peace with Lebanon, once and for all, or could it lead to renewed conflicts?

I'd spoke earlier in the week with a rep from one of the major stakeholders, Shaya Segal from Delek Drilling, who confirms the find, but who, like the local analysts were saying, says that it will take about 2.5 weeks to know what the discovery can mean. Here's my piece on ISRAEL21c.

I've read reports that taking the natural gas stock from the pocket called Tamar, after the granddaughter of a geologist working at the site, will cost somewhere around $1 billion. But that the value of it amounts to about $15 billion.

If Israelis can pull the gas from the seafloor, with the help of a major Houston-based stockholder Noble Energy, then they could, say reports, be close to energy independent for 15 years. That means buying less fuel resources, a dream for Israelis.

But natural gas, a fossil fuel, is not exactly a clean fuel

The find does question however, the direction of Israel's future and the development of clean technologies. I imagine the discovery is exciting for Shay Agassi at Better Place, who I've personally criticized. His plan to use electric cars in Israel was a good idea on paper, but up until now, it looked as though Israel's power plants would continue to be fueled by very polluting coal sources.

Fanning the flames with Lebanon?

Meanwhile, according to the Jerusalem Post, just when Israelis and Gazans were hoping for quiet, after a ceasefire earlier in the week, we learn that Lebanon is claiming that part of the Tamar natural gas reserve is in Lebanese territorial waters:

"The Lebanese government might warn Noble Energy Inc., a US corporation which is part of the consortium that discovered the Tamar 1 gas reserve off the shores of Haifa, that the reserve may be in part in Lebanese territorial waters, according to Al Liwaa, a Lebanese paper.

"In a meeting of the Energy, Infrastructure and Public Works Committee in the Lebanese Parliament, Chairman Muhammad Kabbani said Israeli media reports on the recently discovered natural gas reserve raise the possibility that the reserve extends to Lebanon's territorial waters. "We should take every legal measure possible in order to preserve Lebanon's right," the paper quoted Kabbani as saying.

What's certain, is that it's never boring over in these parts of the world.

For more on the story unfolding in Israel, read an earlier piece by Maurice on the natural gas found off the coast of Gaza. And by Daniel on how the natural gas find could lead to cleaner air in Israel, but not energy independence .

::JPost
More on natural gas:
Graphic of the Day: U.S. Gas In Underground Storage
Take Your Natural Gas Vehicle To Utah
Peak Everything: Learn About Peak Gas
Image credit: Noble Energy

Tags: Alternative Fuels | Israel | Lebanon | Transportation