Noble Energy May be Pushing its Luck by Drilling for Deep Oil in the Med

Satellite view of Deepwater Horizen oil spill slick, April 30, 2010Satellite view of Deepwater Horizen oil spill slick, April 30, 2010: Photo by US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Noble Energy, the Houston based energy company, has been working with both Israel and Cyprus to find commercial quantities of natural gas under the eastern Mediterranean seabed . Noble Energy’s Mediterranean undersea energy exploration has included the Leviathan and Tamar gas fields, together with energy tycoons like Delek Energy’s  Yitzhak Tshuva. The natural gas finds so far are estimated to be able to provide Israel with enough natural gas to satisfy energy needs for 150 years – if handled wisely.

Further exploration by Noble and other energy companies are now revealing that oil deposits, located under some of the gas fields, may also be worth going after; even though this would involve very deep and environmentally risky drilling processes. These gas fields include the Leviathan field, off Israel’s coastal city of Haifa; and the Aphrodite gas field off the southern coast of Cyprus.

Marine biologists specializing in the sea life found in these waters are concerned that these oil hungry businesses are threatening Mediterranean marine life, especially its cetacean population of dolphins, whales and porpoises. According to Globes, Noble claims that following a 5,800 meter seismic survey, they have a17% chance of striking oil deposits estimated to be between 210-1,490 million barrels of oil equivalents. At 7,200 meters, there is an 8% possibility of success, giving a total of 25% possibility for the two strata layers.

Environmental concerns are not the only issue concerning Noble Energy’s activities: A Turkish based organization known as the International Strategic Research Organization, published an article dealing with Noble Energy’s agreement with Greek Cyprus to explore possible oil deposits in the Aphrodite gas field located off southern Cyprus.

The article, which appears to take Turkey’s energy claims to the area into account, warns that Noble Energy is “behaving too boldly” due to the risks and high costs involved; which could bankrupt the company due to high and unforeseen risks. These risks appear to include eventual confrontation with Turkish naval and air forces which are present in the area and are occasionally involved in military exercises.

Possible terror attacks are also a factor, says the article.

Aside from the strategic and political aspects, the article notes that the sea is too deep in this area (more than 1500 meters) and that an additional 2600 meters of seabed needs to be drilled in order to reach such deposits. These problems are reminiscent of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which lasted five months and resulted in millions of gallons of crude oil  gushing into that body of water – perhaps damaging the marine life there forever.

Noble Energy will have to take all of these risk factors into account and then decide if the rewards of extracting oil from this areas are worth the potential risks involved.

Read more about deep sea energy projects in the eastern Mediterranean:

Israel’s Offshore Natural Gas Good to Burn for 150 Years – if Handled Wisely

Mediterranean Agency Could Avert Offshore Marine Disasters

Greek Cyprus Fearful over Offshore Gas Well Drilling

Photo: MNN/NOAA

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