Perry Expects More Companies Drilling Off Israeli Coast, Diminishing Iranian Influence

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters/Hamodia) —
U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry speaks during a news conference in Yerushalayim, July 22, 2019. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

The rise in new suppliers of oil and gas has reduced the ability of Iran to influence global oil markets, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Monday.

The price of crude jumped on Monday following Iran’s seizure on Friday of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, but had pared initial, steep gains by 1507 GMT.

“I am concerned about it,” Perry told a news conference in Yerushalayim, referring to the price rise that followed the ship’s capture. “But we find ourselves in a completely different situation than we were a decade ago.”

“New suppliers should help keep a steady supply of fuel – whether it’s crude, natural gas or other secondary products. I think you will see less displacement of the market when there is an event like we see happening,” he said.

“The Iranians will have a more difficult time in influencing the market than they would have 10 years ago.”

Perry was in Israel to meet his Israeli counterpart, Yuval Steinitz, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on a variety of issues and will head to Egypt later this week for a natural gas forum to discuss international energy cooperation.

Israel is on the verge of becoming an energy exporter once the Leviathan gas field starts production this year off the country’s Mediterranean coast, with Israel due to supply Egypt and Jordan.

Texas-based Noble Energy is one of the developers of the project and a key owner of the nearby Tamar field.

Perry said he believed other U.S. energy firms would start exploring off Israel’s shores.

“Noble is not going to be the last. There are other U.S. and international companies that are looking,” he said, declining to elaborate. “When you start finding oil … it won’t take long to show up and start drilling and being a part of this.”

Last week, Israel received bids from two groups of companies to explore for oil and gas off its coast.

They were British newcomers Cairn Energy, SOCO International and Israel’s Ratio Oil. The second consortium included repeat bidders Energean and Israel Opportunity. Together they offered to take 12 of the 19 available blocks.

Steinitz said in March that Brazil’s Petrobras was expected to take part in the tender. Reuters reported that Exxon Mobil, in a policy shift, was considering bidding in the auction.

The U.S. energy secretary also commented on the ongoing issue of Chinese investment in Israel that poses potential security problems for both countries.

Perry said that “the thing we try to impress upon all of our allies is that there are areas that China is involved with, particularly with the collection of information, that we have great concern about. The cybersecurity side of things [is] the bigger issue.”

He is only the latest of a long list of U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump, who have made Washington’s concern about the Chinese presence in the country known to Israeli officials.

Yerushalayim has been deliberating over the establishment of a mechanism to monitor foreign investments.

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