Can Noble's Israel Dream Come True?

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In this energy-hungry world, the slightest opportunity oil companies get to ramp up production, they grab it with both hands. Israel has offered up such an opportunity, and oil and gas companies have started doing their bit to turn Israel into an LNG exporting hub. Noble Energy (NYS: NBL) is already planning to build an LNG terminal off the shores of Israel.

The possibility
Noble recently stumbled upon huge reserves in the Tamar, Dalit, and Leviathan fields off the Israeli coast in the Mediterranean, raising hopes that the country can become a major LNG player. Noble and its partners in Israel have entered into an agreement with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and D&H Solutions to build a floating LNG facility off the coast.

The Tamar field is expected to hold almost 9 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, while the Leviathan project is estimated to hold almost double that amount. These fields are expected to be operational from 2013 and 2017, respectively.

The promise
Israel is geographically well-poised to supply LNG to both Asia and Europe, and if proper infrastructure is built, can export 15 billion to 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year, which would be worth about $4 billion. Noble has a significant portion of Israel's natural gas acreage and can earn a good amount of profit by supplying LNG to these high-demand markets. At a time when biggies like Chevron (NYS: CVX) , ConocoPhillips (NYS: COP) , and Eni (NYS: E) are looking to tap the Asian markets through their bases in Australia, Israel can play a critical role in Noble's growth in the LNG market.

The hurdle         
The one major roadblock for oil companies is convincing the Israeli government to allow exports. Israel wants to guarantee at least 50 years of supply for the country before opening the gates for export, but the government has taken note of oil firms' interests as well. In fact, Israel has formed a committee to look into the matter and give its verdict by February 2012. So there might be something in the cards. Needless to say, a decision in favor of export will guarantee higher investment and better infrastructure.

Foolish bottom line
Noble is a major player in Israel's oil and natural gas industry, and should the government allow exports, there would be no looking back, as the country holds one of the largest LNG reserves. Moreover, its plan of building an LNG terminal off the country's shores may give a new direction to the future of both Noble and Israel. To keep up to speed on what the government decides and on Noble's future progress, click here to add the stock to your free watchlist.

At the time this article was published

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