Israel's northern port city of Haifa has been a crucial energy center for decades; refineries dating back to the British Mandate in this land have long processed the oil sent by pipeline or shipped here from abroad. Today, rigs are working off Haifa's coast to tap the first major fossil-fuel reserve ever found in Israel's territory, a store on which it hopes to build a far more independent energy future.
The Tamar natural gas field was discovered in 2009 some 50 miles (80 kilometers) off Haifa's coast in the Mediterranean Sea. There are perhaps scores of known gas fields bigger than Tamar, with its estimated 250 billion cubic meters (9 trillion cubic feet) in reserves; Alaska's North Slope, for instance, is believed to hold four times as much fuel. But Tamar is large enough to meet all of Israel's natural gas requirements for 20 to 30 years, the experts say.