Israel has announced that natural gas has started flowing from an offshore rig in the Tamar field in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Israel, ending four years of anticipation.

According to the Energy and Water Ministry, gas from the reservoir will start to gather at the receiving station in the city of Ashdod in Israel within 24 hours from its departure from the rig.

The Energy and Water Minister, Silvan Shalom, said it is a day of energy independence for Israel, reported The Jerusalem Post.

"This breakthrough is the first signal for additional private companies to partake in the energy independence of the state of Israel," Shalom added.

"Gas from the reservoir will start to gather at the receiving station in the city of Ashdod in Israel."

Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, was quoted by the publication as saying: "The flow of gas from the Tamar reservoir has commenced. This is an important day for the Israeli economy." Discovered in 2009, the Tamar reservoir is estimated to contain about 250 billion cubic metres of natural gas.

The Tamar production platform is about 290 metres and weighs nearly 34,000 tonnes, including the rig’s legs. It is located about 90km west of Haifa, while a 150km-long pipeline of around 45 centimetres in diameter connects it to the Ashdod reception facility along the seabed.

Israel, which is expected to use gas from the Tamar field in the next couple of decades to meet its domestic needs, is estimated to save ILS13bn ($3.5bn) on energy costs annually with this latest development.

In addition, the use of natural gas from the Tamar field will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 195 million tonnes, which is equivalent to eliminating all vehicles from Israeli roads for 14 years. A consortium of Noble Energy, Delek Drilling, Avner, Isramco and Dor Gas have explored, drilled and developed gas from the field.

The Jerusalem Post quoted the Delek Group CEO, Davidson Yitzhak Tshuva, as saying: "The Tamar project is also a technological and commercial milestone for Noble Energy and our partners."

"First production and the commencement of sales have been achieved in just over four years from discovery," Tshuva added.

Image: Map of Tamar field in the Levantine basin of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.