Noble Says Tests Show Significant Gas Find in Israel

Noble Energy Inc. said drilling test results in its Leviathan field off Israel’s coast confirm a “significant” find of at least 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Leviathan is “easily the largest exploration discovery in our history,” said Charles Davidson, chief executive officer of the Houston-based explorer with a controlling interest in the field, in an e-mailed statement today. The other principle Leviathan partners are Israeli companies Delek Drilling LP, Avner Oil & Gas Ltd. and Ratio Oil Exploration 1992 LP.

Leviathan is almost double the size of the Tamar field off Israel’s Mediterranean coast discovered in 2009 by Noble and its partners. “The Leviathan discovery has further confirmed our geologic models and interpretation of this basin, and validates that it contains significant natural gas resources,” the statement said.

The Leviathan field is estimated to cover about 125 square miles (325 square kilometers), and will require two or more appraisal wells to better estimate its total gas reserves, Noble said.

Israeli Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau called the Leviathan gas findings “important to the Israeli economy,” according to an e-mailed statement from his office.

Exports Considered

The Leviathan find is “the largest gas discovery in deep water in the past decade,” Delek Drilling Chairman Gideon Tadmor said in an e-mailed statement. The Leviathan and Tamar partners will examine options for exporting the gas from Israel via a pipeline or by turning it into liquefied natural gas, the Delek statement said.

Noble, which holds about 40 percent in Leviathan, rose 2.6 percent to $87.15 at 4:15 p.m. in composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The Leviathan discovery prompted Howard Weil Inc. analyst Peter Kissel to raise his price target on Noble to $86 from $76 based on the value of the find. He reiterated a rating of “market perform.”

Delek, which holds about 23 percent in the project, rose 5.1 percent to 14.36 shekels at the 4:30 p.m. close in Tel Aviv. Avner, also holding about 23 percent in the field, gained 4.4 percent to 2.59 shekels, while Ratio, with a 15 percent stake in the field, rose 10 percent to 0.58 shekel.

“Today’s news corresponded with previous estimates and should come as no shock to the capital markets,” Guil Bashan, an analyst at IBI in Tel Aviv, said by phone. “While stocks may gain on positive sentiment, much of the information released is already priced in.”

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