Game Heats up for Israeli Gas Exports

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As Israel debates whether to eventually export its newfound gas largesse via pipeline or in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG), Australian LNG experts Woodside Energy raise their stakes in Israel's giant Leviathan gas field.

Australian drilling company Woodside Energy has signed a non-binding agreement with the partners in the Leviathan gas field to acquire 25% of the reservoir for roughly $2.71 billion, but the fate of Israel's gas exports remains undecided.

Under the terms of the agreement, Woodside Energy would pay $850 million up front and $350 million on a final investment decision. Beyond that, Woodside would pay up to $1.3 billion for a 5.75% royalty on well-head export gas revenue after at least 2 trillion cubic feet have been exported from the Leviathan field.

In addition, a royalty of 2.5% on commercial oil production from a potential deep oil prospect will be paid.

Under the new deal, Woodside will take a 25% stake, down from 30% discussed in earlier negotiations.

The final agreement is expected to be concluded at the end of March. The new ownership of the Leviathan field would then see Woodside with a 25% stake, Noble Energy with 30%, and Israeli groups Delek Drilling and Avner each with 16.93%, while Ratio would  hold 11.12%.

Woodside would operate any liquefied natural gas development for the reservoir, but Noble Energy will remain the exploration operator, according to a Woodside press release.

Noble discovered the Leviathan field in 2010 and the field is estimated to contain about 535 billion cubic meters (18.9 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas and 34.1 million barrels of liquid condensate. Gas production is scheduled to begin in 2017.

Last year, Israel set its new export policy in motion, with a high court ruling that exports of produced natural gas could reach 40% of total output, the rest supplying the domestic market.

Now the debate is whether to export through an LNG terminal to lucrative Asian markets, or to pipe natural gas into energy-starved Europe. The LNG terminal, which Woodside has lobbied for, is a much more expensive option; however, LNG fetches prices in Asian that are twice as high as on the European market.

An underwater pipeline to Turkey is the cheaper option, and one that would be detrimental to Woodside's ambitious floating LNG platform ambitions.

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