Drill platform / illustrative
Drill platform / illustrativeIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Drilling operations have been suspended on the Leviathan deep well, Noble Energy has reported. 

Drilling was suspended before the primary objective was reached in the second stage of operations due to high pressure and certain mechanical limitations, the energy exploration firm said.

Operations stopped at a depth of 21,400 feet (6,522 meters).

"Over the course of deepening the Leviathan 1 well, the company and its partners have obtained valuable geological and engineering data about the basin,” Noble Energy said in a statement released Thursday. "At approximately 21,000 feet, the well encountered a zone where natural gas was detected.”

The Globes business news service quoted sources as saying “the likelihood of finding oil [is] higher” in light of the data uncovered during the operations. Nevertheless, Globes added, “the belief in the sector is that it will not be possible to renew drilling this year.”

The Leviathan gas field is a large natural gas field located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea about 81 miles (130 km) off the coast of Haifa. Constituting one of the largest offshore gas finds of the past decade, included in the field is Leviathan 1, its first well.

Leviathan 1 was first drilled to a depth of 16,960 feet (5,170 m) in the first stage, where deposits contained 16 trillion cubic feet (450 billion cubic meters) of natural gas. Drilling was intended to reach a depth of 23,600 feet (7,200 meters) in the second stage, where the estimated natural gas reserve comprises another nine trillion cubic feet (250 billion cubic meters.

Noble Energy operates Leviathan with a 39.66% working interest. Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration each hold 22.67% interest; and Ratio Oil Exploration holds the remaining 15%.