Israel to export 'only 40% of natural gas finds'

Israel is to export only 40 percent of the natural gas it extracts from newly discovered gas fields off its Mediterranean coast, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

"The State of Israel will receive 60 percent of the gas produced which will allow it to meet its own needs for the next 25 years," he said in remarks relayed by the country's main radio stations.

Last year, an official commission had recommended the government cap the export quota at 53 percent.

Netanyahu said the exports would bring in some $60 billion to the state coffers during the next 20 years.

The decision to limit exports to 40 percent would be submitted to the cabinet on Sunday for its approval, he said.

If approved, the decision will see Israel retaining 540 billion cubic metres of its gas reserves for domestic use out of reserves expected to total 900 bcm, the Globes business website said.

In the past few years, two high-yield gas fields, Tamar and Leviathan, have been discovered off the coast of northern Israel.

Yasha Hain, vice president of Israel Electric Corporation, said in May the 250 bcm of natural gas from Tamar, 80 kilometres (43 nautical miles) west of Haifa, were earmarked solely for the domestic market.

This, he said, would be "enough for more than the next 50 years".

The Leviathan field -- the largest gas deposit found in the world in a decade -- is twice as large and could be used in part for export.

But the Israeli environmental lobby has said it wants to see the Jewish state meet its own needs before it begins exporting.

Using natural gas to generate electricity produces significantly less sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust particles than using coal, which still accounts for over 60 percent of the fuel currently used in Israeli power plants.