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UPDATE: BG Group in 'secret' talks to develop Gaza-Marine gas field: report


The UK's BG Group is holding "secret talks" on the possible developmentof the Gaza-Marine offshore gas field, Israeli economic daily Globes reportedThursday.

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A spokesman for BG told Platts the company does not speculate about"what we may or may not do with the assets in our global portfolio."

However, the spokesman noted that in 2007 the company withdrew fromnegotiations with the Israeli government for the sale of gas fromGaza-Marine, and in 2008 BG closed its office in Israel. An Israeli Energyand Water Ministry spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.

The Globes report cited unnamed sources as saying the reservoir would bedeveloped for use by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Gaza-Marine, located 35 kilometers (about 22 miles) off theMediterranean coast of the Gaza Strip, was discovered by BG in 1999. Thecompany owns a 60% stake in the field, which has estimated gas resources of30 billion cubic meters. The Lebanon-based Houri family owns 30% and the restis controlled by the Palestinian Investment Fund.

The cost of developing the field is estimated at around $2 billion andit is expected to take three years to bring it online once a decision istaken to develop it.

Discussions regarding Israel buying gas from the field have been held onan on-and-off basis for a few years. Two years ago, Prime Minister BenjaminNetanyahu officially asked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas toresume negotiations on the sale of gas to Israel and its use by thePalestinians.

In September, BG denied it was involved in talks between Israel and thePalestinians over the development of the field. An energy ministry officialsaid at the time that Israel supported the development of the field.

The Palestinian Authority has plans to build four gas-based power plantson the West Bank to end its almost total dependence on Israel for electricity.

Israel and BG ceased negotiations in December 2008 after failing toreach an agreement on price. Israel lost interest in purchasing gas fromGaza-Marine following the discovery of the huge Tamar field off the country'snorthern Mediterranean coast.

Israel has no formal relations with the Gaza Strip and imposed ablockade on the territory when the Hamas took over in 2007. The sources saidan agreement between Hamas and Palestinian authority about future developmentwould be necessary in order to proceed with any plans for the development ofGaza-Marine.

--Neal Sandler,
--Edited by Jonathan Fox,