Israel, Jordan Sign Gas Deal While Kurdish Oil Battle Lives On

This week in energy we feel compelled to head to the Middle East, where we have seen movement on Israeli gas—another boon for US-based Noble Energy Inc.—and the hydrocarbons showdown between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), two issues we have covered extensively during the past two years.

The big news is that Israel and Jordan have signed a deal that will see Israel supply Jordan with $500 million in gas from the Tamar natural gas field in the Mediterranean, which started producing in March last year.

For energy-starved Jordan, whose gas supply has been hindered by the crisis in Egypt—the timing is urgent. The first supplies should start funneling their way into Jordan in 2016, for 15 years. But Israeli media notes that this could eventually turn into a $30-billion partnership between the two countries.

Beginning in 2016, the Tamar field will provide Jordan with 66 billion cubic feet of natural gas, destined for two Jordanian facilities near the Dead Sea.

US oil and gas darling, Noble Energy, owns a 36% stake in the Tamar field, and is its operator. Noble discovered the field in 2009, and it holds an estimated 8.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. It is the smaller of Noble’s two plays in Israel’s portion of the Levant Basin in the Mediterranean. In 2010, Noble discovered the larger Leviathan field, which holds an estimated 16-18 trillion cubic feet of gas and is scheduled to start pumping in 2016.

The deal with Jordan was made possible by an Israeli government decision last year to allow 40% of gas from new offshore fields to be exported.

Then, on Monday, there was some interesting “non-movement” towards resolving the long-running dispute between the Iraqi central authorities in Baghdad and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where foreign oil companies have been drilling, producing and even pumping directly to Turkey in defiance of the central authorities.  In Baghdad on Monday, Iraqi officials said that Kurdistan had agreed, according to Turkish media reports, to export crude via the main oil marketing body of Iraq (SOMO), rather than independently. All talk until now had been of bypassing SOMO and exporting directly to Turkey through a new pipeline in Kurdistan. This had sparked all manner of retribution threats from Baghdad, including exclusion of foreign oil companies from operating in central/southern Iraq, cutting the Kurds out of the federal budget and slapping lawsuits on any purchasers of Kurdish crude that has already been shipped independently to Turkey and is waiting for sale.

But be careful what you read—and understand its origins. Turkey is trying to smooth things over with Baghdad, which is why it is sitting on Kurdish oil and not exporting if further. This is reflected in Turkish media. And Iraqi officials who took to TV to announce the alleged agreement with the Kurds have a tendency to base their statements not on facts but on what they would like to happen. The news that Iraqi officials are claiming that the Kurds have agreed to such a deal was immediately denied by the Kurds themselves. On Thursday, a KRG spokesman said Kurdistan had made no such agreement with relation to SOMO.
On the same day of the Iraqi announcement, the pipeline feeding Kurdish crude into the Turkish port at Ceyhan was bombed by unknown militants, interrupting oil deliveries temporarily and injuring “a number of workers”.

This piece is cross-posted from OilPrice.com with permission.