Since its creation in 1948, Israel has depended on energy imports, primarily through the Arish-Ashkelon pipeline from Egypt.
The discovery of vast natural gas reserves (including the Tamar gas field in 2009, the Leviathan field in 2010 and the Karish and Tanin fields in 2013), was very gratifying at a time when the country was unable to transition to renewable energies. Israel began commercial production of natural gas from the Tamar field in 2013. Today, this field meets most of the country’s electricity demands, while Leviathan’s gas reserves are mainly exported to Egypt and Jordan.
The Tanin and Karish wells, owned by Greece-based Energean, are scheduled to begin production at the end of 2021 and are largely targeted for export. Noble Energy built, operated and partially owned the Tamar and Leviathan wells until 2020, when Chevron bought out it out, entering Israel’s energy sector amidst widespread concerns over its pollution and clean-up record.
All the wells are located between 55 to 75 miles offshore. The Tanin and Karish wells will feature a nearby floating processing rig, while the Tamar and Leviathan wells currently pipe their crude gas over long distances to processing rigs near Israel’s populated coast. Tamar is 14 miles from the southern city of Ashkelon and the Leviathan processing rig is a mere six miles off Israel’s northern shore and nine miles from a nearby desalination plant providing the annual water needs of over one million people.
Key Regional Energy Provider and Corridor
In 2020, aiming to position itself as a key regional energy player, Israel co-initiated the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMFG) with Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum, Tarek El-Molla. Israel is also exploring energy collaborations with the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Sudan and Bahrain, following the recent normalization of ties with these countries.
Plans include using Israel as an energy corridor for transporting crude oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe. The plan will turn the cities of Ashkelon and Eilat into hubs for oil and liquid natural gas. Oil from the Persian Gulf will arrive at Eilat’s bay to be transported to the Mediterranean through massive pipelines running through Israel’s Negev and Arava regions, while gas extracted in the Mediterranean will be pumped to Eilat, to be liquefied and exported.
Gas-fired power plants
In parallel to export, Israel’s Ministry of Energy is advancing plans for 12 gas-fired power plants, including the OPC 2 in Hadera, that will be built close to schools and residential neighborhoods.
In 2020, only 7-8% of Israel’s electricity came from renewables, despite Israel’s plentiful sun and the declared goal of 17% renewables set in 2015. Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz recently announced that by 2030, 30% of Israel’s energy will be met by renewables (meaning that 70% would remain fossil fuel-based).