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Israel' s Leviathan partners confirm talks with Australia' s Woodside Petroleum

BY SARA TOTH STUB

JERUSALEM -- The partners in Israel' s large offshore Leviathan natural gas reserve confirmed that they have approached Australia' s Woodside Petroleum about acquiring a share in Leviathan but didn' t give details.

Since last year, the Leviathan partners, which include Israeli energy exploration companies and Noble Energy, have been looking for a strategic partner to help develop the Leviathan field, which is estimated to contain up to 16 Tcf of gas deep under the Mediterranean Sea.

There have been local and international media reports that the Leviathan partners have also offered the stake to Gazprom and Korea Gas. The Arab League' s continuing boycott of Israel and other political factors will, however, likely prevent most international petroleum giants from working on Leviathan due to their connections with the large oil producing countries of the Middle East and Persian Gulf, according to sector analysts.

Woodside Petroleum specializes in deep water drilling, mainly in Australia, and sells its petroleum products in Australia and several East Asian countries. Leviathan, located off the coast of northern Israel, isn' t scheduled to begin production for several years, but when it does, experts say, it will allow Israel energy independence in addition to making it a net exporter of natural gas. Another nearby reserve, Tamar, is scheduled to being producing next year, and contains up to 9 Tcf of natural gas.

Israel currently faces a natural gas shortage as its supply deal with Egypt has broken down over the last two years, forcing local energy producers to rely on more expensive sources of fuel and pushing up electricity prices.

Noble holds 39.66% of Leviathan; Delek Group subsidiaries Delek Drilling Partnership and Avner each hold 22.67%; and Ratio Oil Exploration holds 15%.

Dow Jones Newswires

10/23/2012

 

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