Back in 2009 Israel discovered huge natural gas reserves just off its Mediterranean coast. These reserves have been estimated to be in the region of 950 billion cubic metres, and a surge in exploration means that by the end of the year there should be 18 new platforms drilling for gas.
The growth of these fields offers a new problem to Israel. The investment going into these new platforms, and the economic importance that they are growing to represent, must be protected. The offshore platforms are ripe targets for attack, and this means that Israel’s underfunded navy has just found itself in demand.
From the outset, as reassurance to foreign firms investing in the development of the reserves, the Israeli government has stated its intentions to protect the new gas fields.
Captain Ilan Lavi, head of the navy’s planning department, explained that “the gas fields are a strategic asset and Israel will defend them. They may not be too complicated to attack, but we are aware of the threats and are prepared for them.”
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Currently the navy is underequipped to adequately patrol the waters and protect the drill rigs.
He suggested that they will “have to build an entire new defensive envelope. But you can't have a defence system that costs more to build than the gas itself.”
The platforms are within rocket range of the Gaza Strip which is ruled by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas; and the Shi’ite military group Hezbollah poses an even bigger threat from Lebanon. Then there are other enemies such as Iran, and various Islamist groups from Iraq.
Lavi suggests that a suitable defence system would cost $700 million to deploy, and then $100 million a year to maintain.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com