As available land tightens for needed infrastructure projects, Israel is furthering its efforts to build large, new facilities offshore.

Houston-based KBR Inc. was chosen on June 25 to develop cost estimates and pre-design analysis for a floating liquefied-natural-gas (LNG) production and storage facility at the newly discovered Tamar gas field in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Haifa.

Israeli officials also announced new feasibility studies to build artificial islands that could site other needed infrastructure, such as powerplants and an airport.

KBR was chosen to carry out the LNG project analysis by Norway-based Höugh LNG, which is managing front-end engineering and design (FEED) of the planned facility for its developers, Noble Energy Inc., Houston, and other, Israeli, partners.

KBR says its analysis would take four months and that FEED could begin in the fourth quarter of this year. No cost figures or schedule were disclosed for the facility, which could supply more than 2.5 million tons per year of LNG.

The Tamar field, discovered in 2009, may contain as much as 275 billion cubic meters of gas. Israel needs the supply to make up for natural-gas shipments from Egypt that have been interrupted by the country’s recent unrest, Israeli officials say. Tamar supplies may be sold for export to countries such as Russia and South Korea.

South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. will also build Tamar development facilities.

Roy Oelking, KBR’s group president of hydrocarbons, said the Tamar offshore LNG complex is "one of the first of its kind to come to market." He said KBR has been working with Höegh LNG since 2010.

The Tamar field is due to begin commercial production in April 2013 for the Israeli market. Exports are not expected to begin before 2016.

Höugh also selected KBR for pre-design studies of a proposed LNG facility at an unidentified location off the coast of Australia, according to KBR. It would supply about two million tons per year, according to a published report.

The company said both projects will be realized in London using its "engineering capability spread over the London, Houston and Perth offices."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last month the Israeli cabinet has approved plans to study the concept of artificial islands for infrastructure. "The idea of artificial islands has spatial, economic and security logic for us," he said.

The artificial islands would be used to locate projects including power and desalination plants, recycling facilities, alternative-energy plants and an airport.

There have been past proposals to relocate Tel Aviv's municipal airport to an offshore island, which would be paid for by sales of its valuable footprint.
Along with representatives from other major ministries as well as outside private-sector experts, the country’s Science and Technology Ministry will lead the offshore-island feasibility study. A final recommendation is expected within a year. The ministry estimates the cost of building a 500-acre island at $1.5 billion.