After about four years rife with many delays, and after great difficulties in obtaining funding for the Tamar drilling platform, at precisely 4 PM Saturday natural gas began to flow from the site, 56 miles off shore, to the Yam Tethys reservoir in Ashdod.
The first injection was supposed to be done the day before, on Friday, but was delayed due to disagreements with officials at the Ministry of Energy, who tried to add last minute additional conditions before issuing the final permit to let the gas flow to Israel.
The use of the gas will commence within 24 hours. The gas is transferred from the sea through a special pipeline installed along the bottom of the sea to the Yam Tethys reservoir. It will flow from there to a gas absorption station in Ashdod and transferred from there to company customers: Electric Company power stations, and private power plants owned by the refineries in Haifa and Ashdod and Israel’s petrochemical plants.
Tamar natural gas is being produced thanks to huge investments totaling billions of dollars from a host of companies, mainly Noble Energy which owns 36% of the gas, and which also did the actual drilling at Tamar. Its three partners are: Delek Drilling (31%), Isramco (29%) and Dor Alon (4%).
The Tamar gas reservoir contains enough natural gas to support the Israeli economy’s needs for 25-30 years. The other big drilling site, Leviathan, is expected to provide the needs of the local economy for another 50 years. Absent any export sales, these two drilling platforms will enable Israel to achieves energy independence for more than 75 years.
The two sites also promise Israeli citizens cheaper energy sources, which are also less polluting than diesel and fuel oil.
The Bank of Israel estimates that the anticipated tens of billions received as taxes from the new sites, Israel’s economy may generate an additional growth rate of as much as 2 percent per year. Israel’s remarkable 2010 growth rate of 5% has slowed to 4.6% in 2011, and 3.3% in 2012. These rates have still outpaced most of the world’s industrial economies, and a close to 50% boost in growth from the new energy source could put Israel ahead of much of the free world in terms of economic activity.
The new Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom said on Saturday afternoon that this is an “historical moment,” pointing out that it was only fitting that on the holiday of freedom, Israel is achieving energy and economic freedom.
“This day raises great pride,” Shalom said, adding that “the Tamar gas production will decrease the electric company’s production costs and will lead in the future to reducing the cost of power to the Israeli consumer.”
Businessman Yitzhak Tshuva, one of the main owners of the reservoir, said: “The vision became a reality. Now we’re going once again out of bondage. From dependence on foreign energy sources, we’ve come to blue and white natural gas independence. This is a great achievement for the Israeli economy and the beginning of a new era.”
Tshuva estimates that “this project will change the face of the Israeli economy and ensure the state’s energy independence. This is a new era full of opportunities for the Israeli economy, which can use the advantages of natural gas environmentally, geo-politically, socially and economically, and turn Israel into a major international player.”