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The Israeli government said it would tap into new-found natural gas supplies in the Mediterranean Sea in an effort to wean its economy off oil. With international players, including arch foes in Lebanon and Syrian ally Russia, staking out area reserves, the region's bloody territorial disputes may move offshore.
Retail gasoline provider Delek Israel, a division of energy explorer Delek Group, said it plans to open its first compressed natural gas facility in the country within the next year. The strategy is part of an ambitious plan to cut oil use in the Israeli transportation by 60 percent by 2025.
Natural gas is a clean burning fuel relative to other forms, making it a good alternative for national strategies against climate change. For Israel, the combined 2.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available in the Leviathan and Tamar natural gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea means there are plenty of resources on hand for fuel independence by way of natural gas.
Israel under the terms of its fuel strategy will rely on about 10 percent of the offshore reserves to meet its 2025 targets. In early December, Delek Israel signed a $105 million deal to secure natural gas from Tamar and last month, its parent company said there may be even more gas deposits in the region than previously thought.
Israel's plans are lofty by international standards, meaning it will need to make considerable claims to natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean Sea to meet its goals. Interest in Mediterranean reserves has already prompted Lebanon to complain its territorial sovereignty was under threat and Hezbollah, Israel's arch enemy, vowed to attack should Israel continue working in Leviathan.
Conflict along the land border separating Lebanon from Israel is relatively common, as evidenced by the presence of one of the oldest U.N. peacekeeping missions still mandated to work. In mid-December, the mission, the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, opened an investigation after a Lebanese troop shot and killed an Israeli soldier along the shared border.
Lebanon, for its part, vowed to move ahead with a mid-January auction for offshore reserves despite political turmoil at home and regional national security threats from the Syrian civil war. Though most of its oil and natural gas fields inland are under rebel control, the Syrian government this week said it too was making plans for Mediterranean reserves with the help of Russian oil and gas company Soyuzneftegaz. That deal sparked rebel outrage over Russia's willingness to finance its allies in Damascus.
In February, Genie Energy, which counts former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney as an advisor, expressed interest in developing oil and natural gas potential in the disputed Golan Heights near Lebanon. When he served as U.S. defense secretary, Cheney made it national policy to ensure Israel has a "qualitative edge" in the region. No stranger to condemnation over its onshore land claims, Israel's offshore ambitions and fuel independence strategy may stir up an already swarming hornet's nest.
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Written by Daniel J. Grauber at Oilprice.com.