Assessment of EastMed hydrocarbon resources 2023

Offshore platform

The Eastern Mediterranean (EastMed) has produced significant discoveries of hydrocarbon resources since the late 1990s and has become a strategic point of international cooperation, though also a focal point for potential conflicts in the region. This assessment summarizes the 2023 discoveries and development of natural gas and other hydrocarbon resources in the EastMed region. Those discoveries had prompted Israel and Egypt to begin massive industrial gas production offshore projects in the Levant Basin, whereas Cyprus and Palestinian Gaza which do pocess proven resources in their economic zones are yet to begin explotation and monetization. As for Lebanon, the country is yet to prove actual gas resources despite promising prospects, while Turkish attempts to drill around the island of Cyprus on behalf of Northern Cyprus has fallen short. Finally, Syrian offshore zones couldn't yet produce any find due to long-lasting security crisis in the country.

Discoveries of hydrocabon prospects in the region began in late 1990s and produced confirmed gas discoveries in the year 2000. In 2010, following significant discoveries of natural gas in the Israeli Exculsive Economic Zone (EEZ), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) published a comprehensive study named "Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of the Levant Basin Province, Eastern Mediterranean", estimating a mean of 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and a mean of 122 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of recoverable gas in the Levant Basin using a geology based assessment methodology. At the time of the publication of the USGS report in 2010, there had been already some 27 TCF of P2 (50% probability) gas resources identified in the Levantine Basin - including 26 TCF in the Israeli Noa, Mari-B, Tamar and Leviathan findings, as well as 1 TCF in the Gaza Marine field in Mediterranean waters adjacent to Palestinian Gaza. As of 2023, the cumulative quantity of confirmed P2 gas resources found in the economic zones of regional players in the Eastern Mediterranean, is estimated at 87 TCF. Of those 75 TCF remain to be extracted, with an extrapulated potential for dozens TCFs of additional findings.

The location of \sraeli and Egyptian producing fields in the Levant Basin of Eastern Mediterranean including Tamar, Leviathan, Karish & Tanin and Zohr in blue, as well as the obsolete Yam Tethys project in orange (edited map by NordNordWest).
Figure 1. The location of \sraeli and Egyptian producing fields in the Levant Basin of Eastern Mediterranean including Tamar, Leviathan, Karish & Tanin and Zohr in blue, as well as the obsolete Yam Tethys project in orange (edited map by NordNordWest).

Israeli EEZ includes three production sites of natural gas, with the most recent gas production site at Karish-Tanin location inaugurated on October 2022 by Energian. Other veteran players in the Israeli offshore hydrocarbon play set involved in Tamar and Leviathan projects are Chevron (former Noble Energy), Tamar Petroleum, NewMed Energy (formerly Delek Group), Isramco, Mubadala Investment, Ratio, Dor Gas and Everest. Altogether, known Israeli resources are at about 40 TCF, with some 6-7 TCF of resources already consumed. Thus, combined resources include the already exploited 1.3 TCF Yam Tethys gas fields (Mari-B, Noa and Pinnacles), producing 22 TCF Leviathan field, producing 10.8 TCF Tamar field, producing 2.3 TCF Karish & Tanin fields, prospective 2.4 TCF Katlan field and about 1.3 TCF in minor fields including Dalit and the recently discovered Zeus, Hermes and Athena.

Taking a look on Egypt, which is an ally of the Israeli-Cypriot-Greek "Energy Triangle" - it has a significant foot print in the Levant Basin in terms of its economic zone. ENI is one of the first companies to become involved in the Egyptian offshore zone and is the main licence holder of the giant 30 TCF Zohr gas field. ENI's (50%) partners in Zohr are BP (10%), Rosneft (30%) and Mubadala Petroleum (10%). ENI is also holding the stale Damietta LNG facility in partnership with Naturgy via Union Fenosa joint venture, whereas the sporadically operating Idku LNG facility is held by Royal Dutch Shell, Petronas, Engie, EGAS and EGPC. Many of those companies are also involved in the Nile Delta basin in the southern parts of Egyptian EEZ and its shores, but those are outside the scope of the discussed Levantine Basin.

Cyprus has a number of gas findings, including the most recent Glaucus-2 well by ExxonMobil-led consortium (including also Qatar Petroleum), announced on May 2022. ENI and Royal Dutch Shell are also present in Cyprus, with ENI holding licenses for blocks 2,3,9 in 50% partnership with Korean KOGAS, licenses for blocks 6,11 in 50% partnership with Total and license for block 8 on its own. Royal Dutch Shell has a 30% interest in the Aphrodite gas field in Block 12, where it is partnered with Israel NewMed Energy (former Delek Group) and Chevron (former Noble Energy). The latest confirmation of gas findings brings the cumulative quantity of proven resources in the Cypriot EEZ to some 15.0-18.0 TCF, including 3 TCF Aphrodite , 7 TCF Calypso and 5-8 TCF Glaucus.

To complete this overview, a look at other players in the region - first of all, the 1 TCF Gaza Marine field, which was disovered some two decades ago by British Gas but failed to monetize due to a number of reasons - most notably its small size and lack of sufficient offtakers to justify its development. The Gaza Marine field is now held by the Palestinian Investment Fund (PIF), which belongs to the Palestinian Authority, and the private CCC group. Secondly, Lebanon which had issued its first tender for offshore exploration in 2018 and did attract major international players - the results of those activities are however very limited so far despite the promising potential of 25 TCF, mainly close to the border of Lebanese and Israeli EEZs (and being the topic of the maritime economic zone dispute between the countries). In addition, there is Turkey which since 2019 has performed hydrocarbon exploration on behalf of Northern Cyprus, but has so far failed to find any resources around the island and did produce geopolitical tensions. Finally, Syrian offshore zones couldn't yet produce any find due to long-lasting security crisis in the country.

In summary, the Levantine basin continues to show a fair match to the USGS gas discovery potential published as early as 2010. With ongoing rate of discoveries, it is still feasible that additional significant offshore gas finds would arise over the coming years to reach the full basin exploration potential of hydrocarbons. Those are most likely to arise in either the Cypriot, Egyptian or Israeli economic zones, as other regional players are failed states or non-state actors who have so far failed to progress in hydrocarbon exploration due to internal crises. 

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