Partners in the Noble Energy Inc.-operated Leviathan project offshore Israel are considering a floating liquified natural gas (FLNG) vessel to enable exports from the massive natural gas field.

Delek Group and Houston-based Noble are negotiating with Golar LNG Ltd. and Exmar NV for a binding long-term charter agreement to finance, build, operate and maintain the facility in Israel’s exclusive economic zone.

Noble two weeks ago said it was only months away from delivering commercial gas from the field, with sales scheduled to start by the end of the year. The company expects to sell an average of 800 MMcf/d from Leviathan in 2020.

An FLNG facility would allow liquefaction capacity of 2.4-5 million metric tons/year. Processed gas could be piped from the Leviathan production platform to the FLNG facility offshore Israel, where it would be liquefied and transferred to LNG vessels.

"Liquefying the natural gas from Leviathan will enable us to transport it worldwide, thus reaching new export markets, mainly in Europe and in Asia," said Delek CEO Yossi Abu.

The Leviathan field, with an estimated 22 Tcf of reserves, is one of the largest gas discoveries of the past decade and the $3.75 billion development is the largest energy project in Israel’s history.

Noble operates Leviathan and holds a 39.66% working interest, with Israeli-based Delek (45.33%) and Ratio Oil Exploration 1992 LP (15%).

Golar, which is carrying out a generic front end engineering design (FEED) for an FLNG facility, plans to examine the compatibility of constructing the facility for Leviathan. Exmar would carry out a dedicated FEED and detailed engineering plan for the project, Delek said.

In June, Israel reached a landmark settlement with Egypt, ending a multi-year dispute over gas deliveries and possibly opening the way for more gas consumption in the Middle East.

The gas dispute settlement came as Israel and Egypt have forged energy cooperation amid several giant offshore gas discoveries in the Mediterranean Sea. Noble and Delek signed a deal last year with Egyptian East Gas Co. to enable gas exports to Egypt.