Steinitz sees gas solution "within months, even weeks"

Yuval Steinitz
Yuval Steinitz

Visiting US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz will presumably raise Noble Energy's problems after the High Court of Justice disallowed the gas framework.

Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz said yesterday that he was not aware of pressures supposedly exerted on Israel by Noble Energy in the wake of the striking down of the stability clause in the Israeli government's agreement with the gas exploration companies by the High Court of Justice. Talking to "Globes", Steinitz said, "I hear what everyone is saying and I have not heard that Noble is applying pressure on me or on anyone else in Israel through US legislators."

In recent months there have been rumors that Noble Energy, headquartered in Houston, Texas, approached Texan legislators asking them to help expedite treatment of the regulatory problems it is experiencing in Israel. These rumors have become stronger since the Israeli court's decision on the stability clause guaranteeing no material changes in regulation.

US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz is due in Israel today for a short working visit. Steinitz said that he "presumes" that the matter of the gas framework will arise for discussion as a matter of course between him and his US counterpart, but said that he did not expect any pressure to be brought in the talks. He said that Moniz's visit would mainly be devoted to professional matters concerning the energy relationship between Israel and the US. He will sign an agreement expanding cooperation between on the two countries on alternative fuels, natural gas, and water.

Steinitz said that the High Court of Justice ruling striking down the stability clause obliged his ministry to act urgently to find alternatives. "I believe that there is a good chance that we shall be able to solve the problem within months, and perhaps even within weeks," he said, "We must provide the investors with a safety net that will enable them to develop the Leviathan reserve at a reasonable profit."

Steinitz stressed that Israel's interest lay in keeping investors and not alienating them. "They are now coping with falling prices in the gas market, and we should not place additional obstacles before them, of a regulatory nature, that will cause them to think twice about their involvement in Israel.

"We are not a normal country," Steinitz said, "We must promote the development of Leviathan because this is not just an economic matter but also a matter of national security. We have to develop Leviathan within four years, and if there's a problem with the stability clause, we'll find another way."

Steinitz said that the professional team now examining possible alternatives to the stability clause was focusing on five options: straightforward legislation under the heading "Stability Law" dealing exclusively with the Leviathan project; broader legislation authorizing the government to grant regulatory stability for investors in projects of national importance (not specifically Leviathan); provision of guarantees to the companies developing Leviathan; provision of guarantees to the banks financing the project; agreement in advance that the developers of Leviathan will be entitled to compensation in the event of regulatory changes.

According to Steinitz, despite the fall in prices on the natural gas market, Leviathan has great potential. He disclosed that in a recent meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister the possibility had been discussed of exporting gas from Leviathan to Egypt via a submarine pipeline, the cost of which was estimated at $.5-2 billion, to a terminal at the LNG plant in Egypt.

Steinitz was a member of the Israeli delegation to the Nuclear Industry Summit in Washington that ended on Friday. "There is a general consensus that the level of security at Israel's nuclear installations is among the highest in the world… we are ready to share with other countries our experience and capabilities in thwarting terrorist attempts to penetrate nuclear installations," he said.

In his speech at the Summit, Steinitz said that Israel was one of the countries with the highest level of preparedness for coping with various scenarios of nuclear terrorism, and that it had specialist teams for dealing with such problems.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on April 3, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

Yuval Steinitz
Yuval Steinitz
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