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Court deals blow to Israeli offshore gas deals

Israeli prime minister says court ruling is a setback for the nation's energy economy.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   March 28, 2016 at 9:03 AM
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JERUSALEM, March 28 (UPI) -- The head of one of the companies leading the offshore gas sector in Israel expressed disappointment with a court ruling against a deal with the government.

Noble Energy and its partners working to tap gas reserves offshore said there were notified by the Israeli Supreme Court that a deal with the government was unconstitutional, a ruling consistent with past concerns about competition.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in December signed off on the regulatory framework necessary to develop the reserves off the coast of Israeli. Leviathan and Tamar combine for an estimated 28 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, with Leviathan accounting for more than half of the aggregate.

"The court's ruling, while recognizing that timely natural gas development is a matter of strategic national interest for Israel, is disappointing and represents another risk to Leviathan timing," Noble's top executive, David L. Stover, said in a statement. "Development of a project of this magnitude, where large investments are to be made over multiple years, requires Israel to provide a stable investment climate."

The court ruled the deal would be suspended for one year.

Antitrust authorities in Israel ruled Noble and its partners at Israeli energy company Delek Group controlled all of the gas reservoirs off the nation's coast. A compromise deal from 2014 called on Noble and Delek to sell their stakes in the Karish and Tanin fields off the coast of Israel, which combine for an average 20.5 trillion cubic feet of reserves, in exchange for maintaining their holdings in Leviathan and Tamar.

The ruling is a blow to Netanyahu, who said the full development of offshore natural gas reserves would be "for the benefit of the citizens of Israel." In a statement, the prime minister said the court's decision severely threatens the potential for full natural gas development offshore.

"We will seek other ways to overcome the severe damage that this curious decision has caused the Israeli economy," he said.

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