Energy Sector

OVERVIEW

Israel has faced energy supply concerns since its creation in 1948. During the ’50s and ’60s, it found minor oil and gas discoveries in its southern coastal plain and Judean Desert. It also produced large quantities from the Abu Rodes oil field in Sinai (from 1967 to 1975). However, these oil and gas resources were negligible compared to demands and Israel remained dependent on imports, primarily through Egypt’s Arish-Ashkelon pipeline.

The discovery of vast natural gas reserves, starting with Tamar’s discovery in 2009, brought about a long-sought era of energy independence. Shortly after came the Leviathan (2010) and Karish-Tanin (2013) discoveries. Today, Tamar, estimated to contain over 200 billion cubic meters, supplies most of Israel’s electricity demands. The country also started exporting Tamar’s reserves in 2013. Leviathan’s gas is mainly exported to Egypt and Jordan. The Tanin-Karish wells are primarily intended for export. 

Texas-based Noble Energy built, operated, and partially owned the Tamar and Leviathan wells until 2020, when Chevron bought it out. Chevron entered Israel amidst widespread concerns over its pollution record. Greece-based Energean operates the Tanin-Karish wells.

All the wells are between 55 to 75 miles offshore. The Tamar and Leviathan wells pipe their crude gas over long distances to processing rigs near Israel’s populated coast and water desalination plants. In contrast, the Tanin-Karish wells feature a floating processing rig near the well.

Israel’s gas discoveries were critical before renewables became a viable option. However, solar energy is now far cheaper to produce than gas, thanks to new production and storage technologies. The existential climate crisis and severe threats posed by fossil fuels to Israel’s national security, environment, public health & tourism also dictate the urgent transition to a low-carbon economy.

Key Regional Energy Player

Israel co-initiated the East-Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMFG) in 2020 with Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum, Tarek El-Molla. It also began exploring energy collaborations with the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Sudan, and Bahrain, following the normalization of ties with these countries.

Plans include using Israel as an energy corridor to transport crude oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe. This project will turn the cities of Ashkelon and Eilat into oil and liquid gas hubs. Tankers will transport the gulf oil to Eilat. It will then be piped through Israel’s Negev and Arava deserts to Ashkelon’s port. In parallel, gas extracted in the Mediterranean will be piped to Eilat to be liquefied and exported.

Gas Fired Power Plants

Israel’s Electric Corporation (IEC) is the country’s primary electricity producer and distributor, controlling more than 95% of the energy sector. The IEC and Israel’s Ministry of Energy are advancing plans for gas-fired facilities nationwide. These  include the OPC-2 in Hadera, planned near schools and residential neighborhoods.

Why is Israel funding unnecessary gas-fired power plants? Click for article (in Hebrew)

Renewable Energy

In 2020, only 7-8% of Israel’s electricity came from renewables. This, despite Israel’s plentiful sun, hi-tech capacities, and declared goal of 17% renewables set in 2015. Prime Minister Naftali Bennet committed to phasing out coal for energy production by 2025 and reducing Israel’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Critics claim that Israel still lacks an action plan to achieve this target. Moreover, the country’s interim target of a 27% fossil fuel reduction by 2030 is still only half the amount pledged by the United States and European Union.  

[See: IHG report to Israel’s Electric Authority urging the transition to 80% renewables by 2030 instead of the 30% proposed (In Hebrew)]. 

Take Actin

Please help transition Israel to life-saving clean energy

Take Actin

Please help transition Israel to life-saving clean energy

Media

Israeli firm signs deal to pipe UAE oil to Europe
Times of Israel: October 21, 2020

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