Daily Archives: June 3, 2012

Israel Discovers New Giant Off-Shore Oil and Gas Field

Another off-shore oil and gas find buries even deeper the old joke that Moses took the wrong turn. Stepping into the Red Sea a good sign?

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By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

An Israel energy company announced Sunday it has discovered an off-shore energy field that may even surpass previous finds in terms of the possibilities of developing commercial grade oil.

Israel Opportunity Energy Resources LP announced that its Pelagic licenses indicate 6.7 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas and 1.4 billion barrels of oil. By comparison,  the previously announced Tamar and Leviathan off-shore fields contain an estimated 9 and 17 TCF of natural gas. The amount of commercial oil, if any, has not been finalized, but estimates of possible oil in the Leviathan field have been downsized to 600 million barrels.

Discoveries of oil and gas have made outdated the old joke that Moses took the wrong turn from Egypt, leading Israel to sand and leaving oil for the Arabs.

After being chased by Pharaoh to the edge of the “Sea of Reeds,” which often if not correctly is called the Red Sea, Moses asked Heaven to save them, and He replied to step into the sea, which then was split by winds, allowing the Jews to cross and then burying the army of Pharaoh when it followed.

Stepping into the sea now can be seen in retrospect as a sign of the treasures buried under the sea.

“The quantity of gas discovered in the licenses, and the high probabilities, make it the third largest offshore discovery to date,” according to Israel Opportunity chairman Ronny Halman, quoted by Globes.

He added, ”This quantity guarantees Israel’s energy future for decades, and makes it possible to export Israeli gas, and boost the state’s revenues without worrying about gas reserves for domestic consumption.”

The five Pelagic licenses cover half a million of acres of sea approximately west of Haifa. One of the licenses is estimated to have a 27 percent chance of success.

“We are preparing for the first well,” Israel Opportunity CEO Eyal Shuker said. “For the logistics, we’ve rented port storage and operations space, we’ve begun ordering drilling equipment, including drill heads and casings, and we’ve secured most of the agreements with Israeli and foreign services and equipment providers for the well. The operator, AGR, has already brought a skilled team to Israel to manage the operation.

The new discoveries make it more certain of a virtual revolution in the Israeli economy, with anticipation that Israel will be energy self-sufficient in three years and soon after will be able to export gas and possibly even oil.

The Tamar and Leviathan energy fields are being developed, and the infrastructure work has added thousands of skilled jobs to the labor market. Exporting energy probably will strengthen the shekel and help make it one of the strongest currencies in the world.

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China steps up Afghan role as Western pullout nears

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By Sanjeev Miglani
KABUL – Sun Jun 3, 2012 3:38am EDT

(Reuters) – China and Afghanistan will sign an agreement in the coming days that strategically deepens their ties, Afghan officials say, the strongest signal yet that Beijing wants a role beyond economic partnership as Western forces prepare to leave the country.

China has kept a low political profile through much of the decade-long international effort to stabilize Afghanistan, choosing instead to pursue an economic agenda, including locking in future supply from Afghanistan’s untapped mineral resources.

As the U.S.-led coalition winds up military engagement and hands over security to local forces, Beijing, along with regional powers, is gradually stepping up involvement in an area that remains at risk from being overrun by Islamist insurgents.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai will hold talks on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Beijing this week, where they will seal a wide-ranging pact governing their ties, including security cooperation.

Afghanistan has signed a series of strategic partnership agreements including with the United States, India and Britain among others in recent months, described by one Afghan official as taking out “insurance cover” for the period after the end of 2014 when foreign troops leave.

“The president of Afghanistan will be meeting the president of China in Beijing and what will happen is the elevation of our existing, solid relationship to a new level, to a strategic level,” Janan Musazai, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry, told Reuters.

“It would certainly cover a broad spectrum which includes cooperation in the security sector, a very significant involvement in the economic sector, and the cultural field.”

He declined to give details about security cooperation, but Andrew Small, an expert on China at the European Marshall Fund who has tracked its ties with South Asia, said the training of security forces was one possibility.

China has signaled it will not contribute to a multilateral fund to sustain the Afghan national security forces – estimated to cost $4.1 billion per year after 2014 – but it could directly train Afghan soldiers, Small said.

“They’re concerned that there is going to be a security vacuum and they’re concerned about how the neighbors will behave,” he said.

Beijing has been running a small program with Afghan law enforcement officials, focused on counter-narcotics and involving visits to China’s restive Xinjiang province, whose western tip touches the Afghan border.

Training of Afghan forces is expected to be modest, and nowhere near the scale of the Western effort to bring them up to speed, or even India’s role in which small groups of officers are trained at military institutions in India.

China wants to play a more active role, but it will weigh the sensitivities of neighboring nations in a troubled corner of the world, said Zhang Li, a professor of South Asian studies at Sichuan University who has been studying the future of Sino-Afghan ties.

“I don’t think that the U.S. withdrawal also means a Chinese withdrawal, but especially in security affairs in Afghanistan, China will remain low-key and cautious,” he said. “China wants to play more of a role there, but each option in doing that will be assessed carefully before any steps are taken.”

JOSTLING FOR INFLUENCE

Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors Iran and Pakistan, but also nearby India and Russia, have all jostled for influence in the country at the crossroads of Central and South Asia, and many expect the competition to heat up after 2014.

India has poured aid into Afghanistan and like China has invested in its mineral sector, committing billions of dollars to develop iron ore deposits, as well as build a steel plant and other infrastructure.

It worries about a Taliban resurgence and the threat to its own security from Pakistan-based militants operating from the region.

Pakistan, which is accused of having close ties with the Taliban, has repeatedly complained about India’s expanding role in Afghanistan, seeing Indian moves as a plot to encircle it.

“India-Pakistan proxy fighting is one of the main worries,” said Small.

In February, China hosted a trilateral dialogue involving officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan to discuss efforts to seek reconciliation with the Taliban.

It was first time Beijing involved itself directly and openly in efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Musazai said Kabul supported any effort to bring peace in the country. “China has close ties with Afghanistan. It also has very close ties with Pakistan and if it can help advance the vision of peace and stability in Afghanistan we welcome it.”

(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley in BEIJING; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

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