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Policy Analysis 19 December, 2012

The Geopolitical Impacts of the Discovery of Natural Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin

Policy Analysis Unit

The Policy Analysis Unit is the Center’s department dedicated to the study of the region’s most pressing current affairs. An integral and vital part of the ACRPS’ activities, it offers academically rigorous analysis on issues that are relevant and useful to the public, academics and policy-makers of the Arab region and beyond. The Policy Analysis Unit draws on the collaborative efforts of a number of scholars based within and outside the ACRPS. It produces three of the Center’s publication series: Assessment Report, Policy Analysis, and Case Analysis reports. 


Introduction

"Israel is the Biblical land of milk and honey, and now it's the modern-day land of milk, honey and natural gas. For in deep waters offshore Israel, in the virtually unexplored Levantine Basin, Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. has discovered a monster gas field."

This was the opening line of Oil and Gas Investor Magazine's cover story for November of 2009,[1] an article which outlines the oil and gas exploration being undertaken by US-based Noble Energy Inc. off the Palestinian coast, as well as some of the major offshore oil and gas discoveries made in 2009 and 2010.

In April of 2010, the US Geological Survey (USGS) estimated prospective resources in the Mediterranean's Levant Basin at between 1.7 billion and 3.7 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil. The survey refers to an offshore basin that covers the territorial waters off the Palestinian Coastal Plain, Lebanon, and Syria, and borders those of nearby Cyprus (Figure 1). The USGS further estimates the undiscovered natural gas resources in the same area to be between at least 122 to 227 trillion cubic feet (TCF*) of technically recoverable natural gas.

 

Figure 1: The geological boundaries of the Eastern Mediterranean (Levantine) Basin


According to the Israeli government's Sheshinski Committee, set up in April of 2010 to investigate fiscal policy with relation to oil and gas reserves and headed by Professor Eytan Sheshinski, two-thirds of these reserves-amounting to about 2.8 TCF-are within the territorial waters under Israeli control.

The potential strategic significance for the Middle East region of the discovery of these resources drew the attention of those interested in the energy industry as well as regional political elites, in addition to the interest of global powers. This paper attempts to analyze the potential geopolitical impacts on the Eastern Mediterranean following the Israeli discoveries of natural gas off the Palestinian coast.

 

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