Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. hit its target to start up natural gas production from its massive Leviathan project offshore Israel with output starting on the final day of 2019.

Leviathan, considered the largest natural gas field in the Eastern Mediterranean, was set to ramp before the end of the year, executives had said during a third quarter conference call in November.  The field was discovered in 2010 and initially sanctioned in 2017.

“This is a historic day for Noble Energy,” CEO David L. Stover said Tuesday. “The safe and successful execution of the initial phase of Leviathan development has been world-class, continuing our exceptional track record of major project delivery.

“First gas is online less than three years from project sanction and capital expenditures were $150 million under budget. Combined with Tamar, our Israel assets provide a differential production profile and cash flow outlook for Noble Energy far into the future.”

The first phase of Leviathan’s development consists of four production wells producing through two 18-inch diameter, 73-mile subsea tiebacks to a processing platform offshore northern Israel.

The field, 80 miles offshore in 5,500 feet of water, is estimated to have recoverable resources of 22 Tcf from 35 Tcf of in-place resource. The first phase of development has a designed production capacity of 1.2 Bcf/d.

Noble’s offshore chief, Senior Vice President J. Keith Elliott, said Leviathan’s gas supply would “enhance Israel’s energy resilience, enable further reduction of coal usage for electricity generation, significantly improve air quality and ensure long-term affordable energy for Israel. Leviathan natural gas provides redundancy in supply domestically and helps transition Israel to become a significant exporter of energy to regional and global customers for the first time.”

Firm contracts are in place to deliver 3 Tcf of supply from the Leviathan and Tamar fields for 15-year terms. Sales volumes from Noble’s Israel assets totaled 234 MMcfe/d in 3Q2019. During the third quarter, the Tamar field reached a milestone of 2 Tcf of produced gas with runtime of 99%-plus since its startup.

Noble expects to sell an average of 800 MMcf/d from Leviathan in 2020. Gas is to be processed at the offshore platform before the treated gas and stabilized condensate flow through a northern entry pipeline connected to the Israel Natural Gas Lines, the national gas transmission system.

Noble holds a 39.66% stake in Leviathan. Other stakeholders are Delek Drilling LP (45.34%) and Ratio Oil Exploration LP (15%).

Last summer Delek and Noble reportedly were working to allow liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and were negotiating with Golar LNG Ltd. and Exmar NV to finance, build, operate and maintain a floating LNG facility.

Israel also reached a landmark settlement with Egypt in early 2019, possibly opening the way for more gas consumption in the Middle East. Noble and Delek signed a deal last year with Egyptian East Gas Co. to enable gas exports into the country.