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New Israeli gas rig subject of dispute by Lebanon

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Israel's energy minister Karine Elharrar

The Energean Power gas rig, docked in Israeli waters off the shore of Haifa, is expected to start pumping gas from the Karish natural gas reservoir in the next three to four months. The operation could significantly shift Israel’s energy economy.

Lebanon called for US mediation claiming part of the offshore field fell within contested waters. US envoy Amos Hochstein will visit Beirut to look into restarting negotiations to demarcate Lebanon’s southern maritime border which stalled last May. 

Israel says the Karish field, about 80 km (50 miles) west of the city of Haifa, is part of its exclusive economic zone. It said the dispute was a civilian issue to be resolved diplomatically with US mediation. 

In a statement, Israel’s Energy Minister Karine Elharrar expressed the rig’s importance in allowing Israel to move on from polluting fossil fuels to a more refined fossil fuel.

“The platform will allow for an increasing number of players in Israel to switch from burning coal and mazut to using natural gas.

“We will continue to work for the diversification of the energy sector and preserve its stability and reliability in normal times and in emergencies for the benefit of all the citizens of Israel,” she said. 

Energean’s new gas platform furthers Israel’s position as a natural gas power and will allow for increasing the export of natural gas to Egypt and Jordan – and the Energy Ministry hopes to then expand its scope to additional countries in Europe that are in need of an additional source of natural gas following the global energy crisis brought on by the war in Ukraine.

Dr. Alexander Coman, from the Faculty of Management at Tel Aviv University, said: “On one hand, you want to sell it abroad so you make a lot of money. On the other hand, you want to use it in a local market so you can reduce prices.

“Now that we have more gas, we’ll be able to sell it abroad, while still using it in the local market. This way we can make [a] profit from our gas and at the same time reduce the prices in Israel.”

A reduced dependency on coal was also cited by the Energy Ministry, which emphasised that the export of Israel’s natural gas to neighbouring and potentially non-neighbouring countries gives Israel some geopolitical leverage, and “assists Israel and countries such as Egypt and Jordan in reducing the use of polluting fuels such as coal and oil and dramatically reduces air pollution.”