Recent natural gas discoveries off the northern coast of Israel have raised concerns over their impact on stability and regional geopolitics among neighboring countries. Reserve estimates are being questioned by experts, but security specialists say regardless of the size of the find Turkish-Israeli relations are unlikely to fall victim to Israeli resource independence.
Statements from Noble Energy have confirmed the positive estimates about natural gas discoveries off the coast of Israel, while raising new questions about energy security and the country’s relations to Turkey.
Statements published by Noble Energy on Dec. 30 and estimations from early January confirm the high quality of the gas discovery at the Leviathan offshore site, while raising questions about the recent gas discoveries’ impacts on regional politics.
Dubbed “the most important energy news since the founding of the state” by the New York Times, this gas discovery could potentially become a major game changer in Middle Eastern relations and Israeli energy security more broadly.
“We will increase our security, while decreasing our dependence in general,” said Professor Yitzhak Ben Israel, a security specialist at Tel Aviv University.
“The discovery could impact our relations in many ways, but it remains fundamentally in our interest to preserve good relations with Turkey, although its government doesn’t see it that way,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
Since mid-2010, the Israeli offshore energy discovery, which is estimated to amount to more than 16 trillion cubic feet, or tcf, has left specialists divided regarding both its consequences for regional stability and Israeli energy security.
An influential 2010 United States Geological Survey, or USGS, report estimated that over 120 tcf of recoverable natural gas reserves lay in the deep waters of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Noble Energy, which is currently operating in Israel, has also obtained licenses for southern Cyprus’ drilling rights, which could increase territorial disputes with Turkey due to the fragile political situation.
According to Delphi Global Analysis Group, headed by David Wurmser, this could imply that Israel becomes an important energy exporter for Europe and elsewhere, which in turn would change the political dynamics of the region dramatically.
Energy experts have noted that changing energy patterns could lead to a direct effect on regional economic and political positions, with new competition over European or Asian energy exports affecting already deteriorating relations between Israel and Turkey, which currently serves as a main energy transit route for Europe.
Professor Ben Israel said these new discoveries would mean Israel would no longer have to rely on importing its energy resources from the “bad guys” in the region, which in turn would mean more political independence.
“With a self-reliant energy policy we would not simply gain energy independence; we would decrease our dependence on the bad guys, who are fundamentally enemies of our state,” Professor Ben Israel said.
However, contrary evidence exists that severely reduce the energy estimates in terms of quality and quantity, as well as the eventual impacts on regional ties and neighboring countries like Turkey, Lebanon and major Arab oil exporters.
According to Martijn Murphy, a Middle Eastern energy analyst at Wood MacKenzie, the Israeli gas discoveries still remain to be verified properly.
“The Leviathan discovery looks promising, but will require further appraisal drilling to ascertain the exact size of the field. Until then it’s difficult to speculate on where the discovery ranks globally in the last 10 years,” he told Daily News.
Beyond estimation concerns, other specialists have pointed toward other factors that would make shifting regional dynamics and deteriorating Turkey-Israeli ties unlikely.
According to Brenda Shaffer, author of “Energy Politics” and an energy-security specialist, the energy reserves are not large enough to compete with current European import trends.
She said new energy discoveries would have positive impacts, since it would facilitate improved and cheaper electricity grids and decreased pollution.
“Even if the reserves were large enough, natural gas supplies involving transit states is inherently less stable and the pricing more complicated, which is clear to both Turkey and Israel,” she told the Daily News
Source : Hurriyet Daily News