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Discoveries and Developments: Deepwater Exploration, Offshore Israel

Abstract

In recent years there has been outstanding exploration success in the Levantine Basin, with discoveries including the giant Tamar and Leviathan gas fields. This success continued during 2013 with the Karish and Tamar Southwest discoveries. Initial exploration offshore Israel was in shallow water (water depth < 200m) and resulted in the discovery of the Yam oil field. However, it wasn't until 2009 when the deepwater (water depth > 1000m) gas fields Tamar and Dalit were discovered (over 50km offshore) that interest in the Levantine Basin was truly sparked. Subsequently, Leviathan was discovered in December 2010 and at the time of writing is the largest find in the basin with an enormous estimated 18.9Tcf of recoverable reserves. Further gas discoveries (post-Tamar) in over 1000m of water (e.g., Dolphin, Tanin, Karish, and Tamar Southwest) weren't far behind. Gas in these fields is reservoired in the Lower Miocene, Aquitanian sands and sealed either locally by Bet Guvrin equivalent clays and/or regionally by overlying Messinian salt. These fields have been interpreted as draping structural closures, exhibiting a large degree of faulting and complexity, which overly basement blocks associated with the formation of the Syrian Arc. Tamar came onstream at the end of March 2013 and demonstrated the huge hydrocarbon potential of the basin. Contribution to Israel's production from the Tamar field alone during the second quarter of 2013 was reported to be in the order of 600 MMcf/d. Gas production in Israel during the second quarter of 2013 averaged 680 MMcf/d (i.e., Tamar provided almost 90% of Israel's gas production for this period). While there have been several promising discoveries in offshore Israel, few are producing. In October 2013, approval was given for the export of natural gas and this decision has enabled development to move forward. Appraisal drilling at Leviathan is well underway, with development planned for 2014 and production scheduled for 2017. Further potential exists here for oil resources in the deeper Cretaceous reservoirs. Exploration success in the basin extends to Cypriot waters, proven by the Aphrodite discovery of 2011, which contains recoverable reserves of 4.1Tcf. Based on these recent successes, along with considerable reserve estimates; exploration and development is sure to continue in the Levantine Basin with possible extension to, not only Lebanese offshore waters but also further north to offshore Syria.