Israel has begun receiving gas from a large off-shore reservoir, four years after drilling initially started. The project is designed to reduce the country’s energy dependence and boost the economy.
Natural gas from the Tamar field off Israel's Mediterranean shores began flowing on Saturday at 4 p.m. local time (1400 GMT), the Israeli Energy and Water Ministry said.
"Today we are really in a new era," Energy Minister Silvan Shalom said.
The Tamar field, discovered in 2009, is located 90 kilometers (56 miles) off Israel's northern coast and has an estimated 10 trillion cubic feet of gas - enough to meet the country's gas needs for decades.
The discovery led to further exploration in the Levant Basin, uncovering an even bigger find – Leviathan - which prompted Israel to set up a natural gas wealth fund.
The production partners, who invested $3 billion to develop the field, estimate that the new gas line will save Israel's economy 13 billion shekels ($3.6 billion or 2.8 billion euros) per year.
'Step towards independence'
Development of the Tamar and Leviathan fields will not only make Israel less dependent on energy imports, it will also allow for a significant amount of its natural gas to be exported.
The Israeli treasury said it is hoping to earn 450 billion Israeli shekels (about $123 billion or 96 billion euros) from the gas over the next 25 years.
In a statement issued by his office, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the achievement.
"We are taking an important step towards independence in the energy sector. In the past decade we have promoted Israel's gas sector and this will enhance Israel's economy and benefit all the country's citizens," he said.
Texas-based Noble Energy holds 36 percent of Tamar. Isramco Negev owns 28.75 percent with Avner Oil Exploration and Delek Drilling holding 15.625 percent each. Dor Gas Exploration has a 4 percent stake.
hc/slk (Reuters, dpa)