Natural gas sales from the mammoth Leviathan field offshore Israel as of Wednesday were underway to Egypt, Israel and Jordan, Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. said.

Combined gas sales from the Leviathan and Tamar fields have been averaging 1.5 Bcfe/d, with peak days up to 1.7 Bcfe/d. First gas sales from Leviathan began on New Year’s Eve, with gas piped to Jordan beginning Jan. 1 and as of Wednesday into Egypt. Interconnects between the three countries’ pipeline networks also are fully operational.

“The successful startup of the Leviathan project reflects the tremendous efforts of our employees, partners, and suppliers,” said Noble’s J. Keith Elliott, senior vice president of Offshore. Early performance “has provided confidence in meeting our 2020 sales outlook.”

Firm contracts at the end of 2019 were in place to deliver 3 Tcf from the Leviathan and Tamar fields for 15 years. Leviathan is 80 miles offshore in 5,500 feet of water, with estimated recoverable resources of 22 Tcf from 35 Tcf of in-place resource.

Noble operates the field and holds a 39.66% stake with partners Delek Drilling LP (45.34%) and Ratio Oil Exploration LP (15%). Sales volumes from Noble’s Israeli assets totaled 234 MMcfe/d in 3Q2019. The Tamar field during the quarter reached a milestone of 2 Tcf of produced gas with a runtime of 99%-plus since startup.

Noble expects to sell an average of 800 MMcf/d from Leviathan this year. Gas is 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.

Considered the largest natural gas field discovered to date in the Eastern Mediterranean, Leviathan was discovered in 2010 and initially sanctioned in 2017. The first phase of development consists of the four wells, which are producing through two 18-inch diameter, 73-mile subsea tiebacks to a processing platform offshore northern Israel.

“Leviathan natural gas provides redundancy in supply domestically and enables Israel to further transition from coal, improving air quality for Israel’s citizens,” Elliott said. “Additionally, the asset supports regional economic cooperation and development through its exports to both regional and global customers.”

Leviathan’s four wells and both subsea flowlines are fully operational. Well production is “in line with or better than pre-production expectations,” management said. Venting operations associated with the startup also proved successful, “resulting in no impact to onshore communities and with emissions levels substantially below permitted limits.”

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.

The Eastern Mediterrean is proving to be one of the exploration hotspots for natural gas.

In December, ExxonMobil Corp. said it had secured more than 1.7 million acres, including 1.2 million acres in the North Marakia Offshore block, which is five miles offshore Egypt’s northern coast in the Herodotus Basin. The remaining 543,000 acres is in the North East El Amriya Offshore Block in the Nile Delta.

In early 2019, ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum also reported a huge gas discovery offshore Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean that could hold 5-7 Tcf. The gas-bearing reservoir of 436 feet was discovered at the Glaucus-1 well in Block 10.

ExxonMobil and Qatar have signaled they could use the gas reserves to feed a two-train LNG plant, but there could be limited space in the local markets, Wood Mackenzie said last year.

Eni SpA and Total SA made a similar giant gas discovery in the neighboring block in 2018, and a joint development could provide enough gas to support a greenfield LNG development, Wood Mackenzie said.

A partnership also would echo collaboration at ExxonMobil and Eni’s LNG developments in Mozambique after they sanctioned Coral South LNG in 2018.