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August 20, 2013

Eastern Mediterranean natural gas exploration focused on the Levant Basin

Map of eastern Mediterranean region, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, IHS EDIN
Note: Click to enlarge.

Republished August 20, 2013, 1:30 p.m. to correct a source for the map.

Offshore natural gas discoveries in the Levant Basin have the potential to significantly alter energy supply dynamics in the eastern Mediterranean region and could spur natural gas exports in the near future. Uncertainty over the location and configuration of export infrastructure persists, but several proposals are making progress despite complications posed by regional security problems, territorial disputes, and macroeconomic uncertainty.

There have been a number of significant discoveries of natural gas in the Levant Basin since 1999. Large fields in Cyprus and Israel contain most of the recently discovered natural gas reserves. Together the estimated recoverable reserves in the these fields total more than 40 trillion cubic feet.

Recent natural gas discoveries in the Levant Basin
Country Discovery date Field name Estimated recoverable reserves (Tcf) Year of first production
Cyprus 2011 Aphrodite 7 2017
Israel 1999 Noa 0.04 2012
  2000 Mari-B 1.5 2004
  2009 Dalit 0.5 2013
  2009 Tamar 10 2013
  2010 Leviathan 18 2016
  2011 Dolphin 0.08 unknown
  2012 Shimshon 0.3 unknown
  2012 Tanin 1.2 unknown
  2013 Karish 1.8 unknown
Palestinian Territories 2000 Gaza Marine 1 unknown
Sources: EIA estimates, IHS, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, Oil & Gas Journal, company reports, trade press

A large share of the newly discovered energy resources will help meet domestic demand in the countries of the eastern Mediterranean region, but there could be enough surplus natural gas to spur exports from Cyprus and Israel. Determining how and where to export natural gas remains a topic of continued debate, with several proposed export routes competing for political and economic support.

There are proposals, at varying stages of development, to export gas via pipeline and as liquefied natural gas (LNG) from both Cyprus and Israel (for a more detailed discussion of the proposed export routes, see EIA's regional brief Oil and Natural Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean). An LNG terminal in Cyprus already began pre-front-end engineering design work and could begin construction in 2015. Cyprus hopes to incorporate volumes from fields in offshore Israel into its plans, but Israel appears to prefer its own facility at this point.

Other natural gas export options include

  • A new pipeline from the eastern Mediterranean to Crete (where the volumes could flow into the European grid)
  • A new pipeline from the eastern Mediterranean to Turkey
  • Use of existing infrastructure to send volumes to Egypt for export via its LNG facilities

Several factors may influence how and when exports may came online: regional insecurity, such as the ongoing conflict in Syria and the recent unrest in Egypt; territorial disputes, such as that between Israel and Lebanon; and the status of economies in both potential exporting countries and destination markets like Europe and Asia.