The owners of Leviathan, Israel’s largest natural gas field, began moving on development plans delayed for years by political, legal and regulatory wrangling. The companies’ stocks gained as developers reaffirmed that production was on track to begin in 2019.
The Leviathan partners authorised Texas-based Noble Energy, a 40% stakeholder in the field, to sign a contract for engineering work worth an estimated $120mn, according to a Tel Aviv Stock Exchange filing on Wednesday. Designing the platform is the first stage of the gas field’s development, Israel’s Delek Drilling, another stakeholder, said in an e-mailed statement.
“The complex work of engineering and designing the production platform will provide the engineering solution for the supply of gas to the domestic market and regional export,” Yossi Abu, Delek Drilling chief executive officer, said in the statement. “We will also advance tenders for the supply of equipment and services, in order to make a final investment decision by the end of 2016 and be able to pump gas by 2019.”
The last obstacle to developing the field was swept away last month when the government approved the companies’ two-stage plan to drill a total of eight wells producing 21bn cu m of gas a year. The partners are in talks with large banks to finance the infrastructure project, the largest in Israel’s history. The gas companies are seeking about $4bn, Bloomberg reported in March.
Production from Leviathan, discovered in 2010, has been delayed by political and legal challenges and the absence - until last month - of a government policy on the country’s fledgling natural gas industry. Things stalled outright in December 2014, when the antitrust commissioner forced new regulatory terms onto the companies, setting off a back-and- forth tussle that included public protests, political debates and High Court rulings.
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