UPDATE 3-Noble, Israel partners confirm huge natgas find

* Well confirms Leviathan has 16 trillion cubic feet of gas

* Delek: Leviathan biggest deepwater gas find in past decade

* Israel could become exporter of natural gas

* Noble shares up 3.4 pct, Israeli firms’ shares surge

* Natural gas valued at $95 billion -analyst

(Adds analysts’ comments)

By Tova Cohen

TEL AVIV, Dec 29 (BestGrowthStock) – Noble Energy (NBL.N: ) and its
Israeli exploration partners confirmed earlier estimates that
the offshore Leviathan prospect was Israel’s largest natural gas
find and could transform the country into an exporter of gas.

Delek Energy (DLEN.TA: ), one of the Israeli partners, said on
Wednesday that Leviathan, 80 miles (130 km) off the
Mediterranean port of Haifa, was the largest deepwater natural
gas find in the world in the past decade.

Noble shares jumped 3.4 percent to $87.88. Shares in Delek
Energy closed up 3.7 percent, while its subsidiaries Delek
Drilling (DEDRp.TA: ) and Avner Oil (AVNRp.TA: ) rose 5.1 percent
and 4.4 percent respectively. Another Israeli partner, Ratio Oil
(RATIp.TA: ), surged 10.3 percent.

“Today we received the most important energy news since the
country was founded, which will certainly bring us success and
significantly impact many fields in Israel,” Infrastructure
Minister Uzi Landau said. “This is an important day for the
Israeli market and economy.”

A nearby prospect called Tamar being drilled by Noble and
Delek was the largest gas find in the world in 2009, at 8.4
trillion cubic feet. Leviathan is nearly twice the size.

“Leviathan is the latest major discovery for Noble Energy
and is easily the largest exploration discovery in our history,”
Charles Davidson, chairman and CEO of the Houston-based company,
said in a statement.

Amir Kahanovich, macroeconomist at brokerage Clal Finance,
estimated the gas reserves at Leviathan were worth $95 billion.

Noble said results from a well confirmed the pre-drill
estimated resource range, with a gross mean for Leviathan of 16
trillion cubic feet (450 billion cubic metres) of gas.

“This discovery has the potential to position Israel as a
natural gas exporting nation,” Noble President and Chief
Operating Officer David Stover said.

Delek Energy and its Israeli partner Ratio (RATIp.TA: ) said
they would continue to explore different options for exporting
gas through a pipeline and/or as liquefied natural gas (LNG).

They said the early results from the drill may support
carrying out a project for at least one of the alternatives.

TAX PROPOSAL

Delek Energy CEO Gideon Tadmor said both Leviathan and Tamar
should be excluded from any proposed tax changes to be levied on
oil and gas exploration companies in order to allow their
immediate development.

“Realising the potential of Leviathan requires from the
developers enormous investments in infrastructure to export gas,
in an unprecedented amount of tens of billions of shekels,”
Tadmor said.

The so-called Sheshinski committee has recommended sharply
raising the government’s take on oil and gas revenue, which is
relatively low on a global standard, through a progressive tax
on companies that ranges from 20 to 60 percent. [ID:nLDE6A92BD]

Noble and Delek have said the tax proposal creates
uncertainty around the scheduling and financing of Tamar, which
was due to start production by 2013.

Guil Bashan, an analyst at IBI Investment House, said the
fact there is also natural gas in Leviathan raises the chances
that the committee’s proposals will be adopted.

“The chances that gas will be produced from Leviathan before
2017 are slim, in our opinion,” he said. “The publishing of the
committee’s final conclusions are far more significant to the
value of the (companies’) shares than this report.”

Noble owns 39.66 percent of Leviathan, while Delek Energy’s
subsidiaries Avner and Delek Drilling each own 22.67 percent.
Ratio owns the remaining 15 percent.

Migdal Capital Markets analyst Eran Yunger said the latest
statement hints at a reasonable chance of further gas finds.

He said the announcement strengthens the reliability of
seismic data that showed a possibility of discovering oil at
Leviathan, which he estimated could be worth $500-$700 million.

The Leviathan field is estimated to cover 125 square miles
(325 square km) and will require two or more appraisal wells to
further define total gas resources, Noble said.

For a Special Report on gas in Israel click on
[ID:nLDE6AA0QS] or
http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/F/11/IsraelGas.pdf

(Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Steven
Scheer, Will Waterman and David Hulmes)

UPDATE 3-Noble, Israel partners confirm huge natgas find