Noble Energy, the explorer that was part of the biggest natural gas discovery in Israel, sees potential for additional finds in the Jewish country.

“We embarked on the largest offshore 3D seismic survey that’s ever been conducted in Israel to examine potential sites for drilling,” Charles Davidson, Chief Executive Officer, said at a press conference in Tel Aviv.

Production at the offshore Tamar field, which may hold as much as 7.7 trillion cubic feet of gas, is on schedule to start in 2012, he said.

Noble and its partners are processing data from surveys in the vicinity of Tamar and have made provisions in their budgets to drill an exploratory well later this year if prospects emerge, Davidson said. Besides, The Tamar partners, who have already spent $700 million, need to invest about $2.5 billion to $3 billion to begin production, Davidson said.

Tamar and a smaller find Dalit, which together may contain two decades of gas supply based on projected needs, may begin the first phase of production by 2012, Davidson emphasized. Possible exporting of natural gas from Israel will depend on future finds as “the domestic ‘market is so strong that all of Dalit and Tamar will be absorbed in Israel,” he said.

Noble Energy operates the Matan licence, where the Tamar site is located, with a 36 percent working interest. Other owners of the well are Isramco Negev 2 with 28.75 percent, Delek Drilling with 15.625 percent, Avner Oil Exploration with 15.625 percent and Dor Gas Exploration with the remaining four percent.