Indian group of companies wins license to explore for gas in Israeli waters

The Energy and Water Resources Ministry confirmed that it has granted a consortium of Indian companies a license to explore for gas and oil in Israeli waters.

The group includes India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, the Bharat Petroleum Corporation, the Indian Oil Corporation and Oil India Limited.

The ministry invited foreign investors to explore Israeli waters in November, dividing the area into blocs for the purpose of licensing offshore exploration ventures.

The Indian group was given a permit to explore Bloc 32 for a period of three years, with the option of extending the permit for an additional three years.

The consortium was asked to prove financial holdings that reflect at least $400 million in assets and shareholders’ equity of at least $100 million. The group was also required to prove its professional capability in offshore gas and oil exploration and production to ensure it meets the conditions of the license.

In recent years, the group was involved in gas- and oil-exploration ventures in Iranian waters, but the partnership with Iranian authorities soured, and the group expressed interest in the alternatives Israel was offering.

Energy-industry websites reported that the Indian consortium was prepared to invest $5 billion into developing the Farzad B offshore gas field in the Persian Gulf, but negotiations deadlocked after Iran accused India of “inflexibility,” and India accused Iran of “shifting the goal posts” and delaying the deal.

Industry experts said this week that India’s plan is to liquefy any gas it may find in Bloc 32 in Egypt and pump it through the Suez Canal.

Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz welcomed the development, saying that his ministry plans to step up efforts to attract international investors to explore Israel’s waters.