Noble Energy Inc., Houston, (NYSE: NBL) reports it may have made the most natural gas discovery in its history at the Tamar prospect offshore Israel.

The Tamar #1 well in the Matan license, located in approximately 5,500 feet of water, was drilled to a total depth of 16,076 feet and tested a subsalt, lower-Miocene structure in the Levantine basin. Logs identified more than 460 feet of net pay in three high-quality reservoirs, which Noble says had greater thickness and quality than it had expected.

Noble partner Delek Drilling says initial indications show that the gas reserves identified in the well are substantial and could total 3.1 trillion cubic feet or higher.

Noble chairman, president and chief executive officer Charles D. Davidson says, "Tamar represents our first exploratory well offshore Israel in more than five years, and we are extremely excited by the results. This is one of the most significant prospects that we have ever tested and appears to be the largest discovery in the company's history. Early indications are that the resources identified are very substantial, at least equal to our pre-drill estimated gross mean resources of over three trillion cubic feet. Subject to the collection of additional data, the resource estimate for Tamar could further increase. This discovery continues to highlight the potential of our global programs and further demonstrates the significant value generated from our best-in-class exploration efforts.

"We were also very pleased with the drilling operations of this well, despite the uncertain conditions that exist when drilling in a highly under-explored area, with the nearest well control over 60 miles away."

Noble Energy operates the well with a 36% working interest. Delek has a 15.625% interest; Isramco Negev 2 has a 28.75% interest; Avner Oil Exploration owns 15.625%; and Dor Gas Exploration owns the remaining 4%.

Production testing at Tamar will begin after the well is completed and is expected to cost $20 million. Noble Energy and its partners may keep the rig to drill up to two additional wells in the basin.