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Tamar – building energy independence

At the end of March 2013, natural gas started to flow from the Tamar reservoir and as it did, Israel took a huge step toward energy independence. Only 4 years after discovery of the Tamar gas field in January 2009, its development was rapidly completed in order to meet Israel’s immediate need for natural gas in view of the cessation of the supply from Egypt.

The first exploration drilling of Tamar began at the end of 2008, at a cost of approximately 140 million dollars, and with only a 30% probability of finding gas. The exploration drilling indicated that Tamar reservoir contained about 281 BCM of natural gas and about 13 million barrels of condensate. In 2013, another 26 BCM of gas and 2 million barrels of condensate were discovered at Tamar South West, bringing the total combined resources available from Tamar and Tamar SW to approximately 307 BCM.

The partners in the Tamar Project are Delek Drilling (15.625%), Avner Oil Exploration (15.625%), Noble Energy (36%), Isramco (28.75%), and Dor Gas (4%).

The local market

The Tamar reservoir can today provide more than 30 million cubic meters of natural gas per day, which is used to generate approximately 50% of Israel’s electricity. Counted among the prominent Tamar reservoir customers in Israel are Israel Electric Corporation, private power plants Rotem OPC, Dorad and Dalia, Bazan Oil Refineries, the Dead Sea Works, and industrial plants such as Phoenicia Flat Glass Industries, Hadera Paper, and Shaniv Paper Industries. As of the end of 2015, more than 4 billion dollars have been invested in the gas field. 

Since the start of production in 2013, and through to the end of 2015, more than 20 BCM of natural gas produced from Tamar have been supplied to the Israeli market, lowering costs of electricity generation and of drinking water desalination, and strengthening the stability and profitability of Israeli industry.

Export markets

The first natural gas exports from the State of Israel are expected to begin during Q4 of 2016, with the supply of gas from the Tamar reservoir to the Arab Potash Company and the Jordan Bromine Company on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea. Under this first natural gas export agreement approved by the Israeli government, Tamar Partners expect to deliver natural gas with a total volume of about 1.8 BCM to the two plants in Jordan for a period of approximately 15 years, [under a contract worth] hundreds of millions of dollars.

Tamar Partners have also signed an agreement with Egyptian company Dolphinus Holdings to supply gas to the local Egyptian market, while using the existing infrastructure between Egypt and Israel – the pipeline of the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG). Under the 7-year agreement, Tamar Partners will supply an overall minimum quantity of 5 BCM in the first three years of the contract, which is expected to grow according to the free gas volume remaining after all the needs of the Israeli economy are supplied. 

Tamar Partners have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Union Fenosa Gas, a partnership owned in equal shares by the Spanish company Gas Natural Fenosa and Italian company Eni, which owns the Damietta natural gas liquefaction plant in Egypt. Under the terms of the MOU, Tamar Partners will supply between 4.5 and 7.5 BCM annually to the Spanish company, totaling approximately 70 BCM over 15 years, at a total value of tens of billions of shekels.

An exceptional development

The Tamar field is located roughly 90 km west of Haifa, at an overall depth of about 5,000 meters below sea level, and in waters that are 1,700 meters deep. The field covers an area of 100 square kilometers, with the thickness of the reservoir layers reaching up to 300 meters. The Tamar 1 exploration well, which reached a maximum depth of 4,875 meters below sea level, and provided proof of the presence of natural gas at a volume that is unprecedented in the Levant Basin, triggered the largest infrastructure project funded by the private sector ever carried out in Israel.

The natural gas in Tamar is extracted through five unique production wells, built in such a way that they can each produce between 7.1 and 8.5 million cubic meters of gas per day. The wellheads are located on the seabed, and their bases are at different depths within the layers of the reservoir. The gas makes its way from the reservoir layers to the wellhead, and from there through two pipes of about 140 km in length laid along the seabed to the primary and main processing facility - the Tamar rig.

A city at sea

The Tamar rig is located about 25 km west of the Ashkelon shore and at a water depth of about 237 meters, soaring about 60 meters above sea level. Its overall weight is approximately 37,000 tons and its total area is about 10,000 sqm. The Tamar rig was built at Texas especially for the project and was transported to Israel in a sea expedition that lasted six weeks. In many ways this is a city at sea. It is home (temporarily) to about 50 employees, most of whom are Israelis, that operate the rig in shifts around the clock. The water on board the rig is desalinated seawater and electricity is generated using the natural gas produced on site.

Almost all of the processing of natural gas (drying, fluid separation, separation of condensate, etc.), is performed on the Tamar rig. From the rig, the natural gas is transported in pipelines to the onshore Terminal at Ashdod, where it undergoes residual processing that makes it suitable for the needs of the Israeli market before being pumped into the national gas pipeline of Israel Natural Gas Lines Ltd.

The great distance between the onshore gas terminal and the reservoir – approximately 140 km – is due to regulatory constraints imposed on the designers and not due to technical reasons. When the project was taking its preliminary steps, the Israeli Government was unable to approve a northern entry point and the construction of a new onshore terminal. These constraints caused a delay of about one year in the project – a delay whose cost was estimated at billions of shekels, without factoring in the indirect costs arising from having to revert to the use of alternative and polluting energy sources.

The Compressors Project

In order to meet the growing demand for natural gas in the Israeli economy, already as of 2015, Tamar Partners decided to invest approximately 262 million dollars in the Compressors Project. The aim of the Project is to ramp up capacity of the gas supply to the Israeli market through the existing marine transportation system. The compressors will allow to accelerate the rate of supply to a maximum daily flow rate of about 1.2 BCF/D. Upon completion of the Tamar expansion project, the compressors will also allow a further increase in capacity of the gas supply to the Israeli market and for export, up to a maximum daily flow rate of approximately 2.04 BCF/D. 

Gas supply, like the supply of electricity, is tested during periods of peak demand, which occur in Israel during extreme weather conditions. The compressors allow Tamar Partners to provide most of the demand from the Israeli market even at the most extreme times, thus ensuring continuity of supply to the Israeli market.

The Tamar expansion project

Tamar Partners plan to carry out a significant expansion project over the coming years, with the goal of meeting the growing demand of the Israeli economy, and increasing the export capacity of the field. As part of the project, three additional production wells will be drilled – beyond the five existing wells, the processing platforms of Tamar and Yam Tethys will be upgraded, and a further pipeline will be laid, the third in number, from the field to the platforms.

The expansion project, whose cost is estimated at approximately 1.5 to 2 billion dollars, will allow an increase in the production capacity of the reservoir to about 20.4 BCM annually, to fully meet the total demand of the domestic and export markets. According to estimates, the Tamar expansion project is to be completed as early as 2018, so that generation of electricity using natural gas will increase and flaring of polluting fuels will diminish.

For further reading:

Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources: State revenue record

Channel 2 News: Tamar Gas first flows  

The Tamar Platform Installation
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Tamar Export Routes
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Tamar Platform (Picture by: Albatross Aerial Perspective Ltd.)