September 25, 2012–The Middle East, source of much of the world’s hydrocarbons, is one of the most volatile regions on earth, where energy issues impact international relations. From Iraqi oil output, still struggling to reach its 2003 pre-invasion levels through Iran’s sanctioned nuclear program, the region focuses the world’s attention like nowhere else.
Now another issue is complicating the mix, Israeli natural gas production.
Like Turkey, Israel is a net energy importer – according to the CIA, in 2010 Israel produced a mere 4,029 barrels per day of oil, but imported 238,000 bpd.
Natural gas? In 2009, Israel produced 1.55 billion cubic meters, but consumed 3.25 bcm. Israel imports all of its oil and coal and 70 percent of its natural gas needs, leaving the government deeply interested in developing indigenous alternatives, especially as the “Arab Spring” led to Egypt halting its natural gas exports.
Which is why for the last several years Israel has been so excited about potentially huge natural gas discoveries.
But the bad news is that they are in the eastern Mediterranean, in contested waters claimed by not only Israel, but the Palestinian Authority, the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey. At issue is each country’s claim to its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) under the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which came into force in November 1994. Under UNCLOS III, a nation can claim an EEZ of 200 nautical miles from its coastline.
In March 2010 the U.S. Geological Survey released its survey of the Levant Basin, which concluded that the waters of Israel, Lebanon and Republic of Cyprus potentially contained at least 50,000 billion cubic feet of natural gas yet to be discovered and that in total the Levant Basin could contain as many as 227,430 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 483 million barrels of oil. Accordingly, it is no less a question of what lays beneath the waves, but whom it might belong to. (RELATED: Big Oil Funding U.S. Politics)…Read More>>