PERTH, Australia, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Australian energy company Woodside Petroleum said Friday it signed an agreement to buy a stake in the Leviathan gas field off the Israeli coast.
Woodside said it signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. and Israeli partners at Leviathan to acquire a 25 percent stake in the gas field.
Noble Energy Corp., which has headquarters in Houston, is developing the field alongside Delek Group, Avner Oil Exploration and Ratio Oil Exploration. Woodside said it aims to close the deal by March and would pay up to $2.5 billion for the Leviathan stake.
Once closed, Woodside said it would serve as the operator in any development of liquefied natural gas from the field. Noble would stay on as the field's upstream operator.
Woodside Chief Executive Officer Peter Coleman said the agreement is a "compelling" opportunity for his company, which holds a stake in LNG operations in Australia.
"We look forward to the ongoing engagement with the joint venture, government and other stakeholders to move forward with the Leviathan project," he said in a statement.
Noble Energy estimates Leviathan holds as much as 18.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Its operators said it could start commercial production by 2016.