Israel's Leviathan gas group gets offers for share of field

JERUSALEM, Sept 9 Sun Sep 9, 2012 12:26pm IST

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JERUSALEM, Sept 9 (Reuters) - The U.S.-Israeli exploration group developing the Leviathan natural gas field off Israel's shore said on Sunday it is considering offers to sell up to 30 percent of the rights to the field.

The group received offers from "leading international companies that work in the field of natural gas exploration and production", Avner Oil Exploration, one of the partners, said in a letter to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

It provided no further details on who made the offers but said the partners would "study the offers and examine the possibility of starting negotiations."

Leviathan was discovered in 2010 and has estimated reserves of 17 trillion cubic feet of gas, making it the world's biggest offshore discovery of the past decade. The consortium hopes to find some 600 million barrels of oil beneath the gas.

Texas-based Noble Energy has a 39.66 percent share in the field. Israel's Delek Group, through subsidiaries Delek Drilling and Avner, has a 45.34 percent stake. Ratio Oil Exploration holds the remaining 15 percent.

The group has said in recent months it is looking to bring in other stakeholders and raise cash to help develop the project, which is expected to begin production in 2017.

Noble has had some technical difficulties drilling at Leviathan, which is about 80 miles (130 kilometers) off Israel's coast.

In May, it was forced to stop drilling one of the wells after reaching 21,400 feet, the deepest known penetration in the eastern Mediterranean, because of high well pressure and the mechanical limits of the well bore design.

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