JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel began delivering its first natural gas from the Tamar offshore reservoir over the weekend, just four years after its discovery.
"This is an important day for the Israeli economy," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office Saturday evening.
"We are taking an important step toward energy independence," he continued. "We have advanced the natural gas sector in Israel over the last decade, which will be good for the Israeli economy and for all Israelis."
Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom called it "a day of energy independence for Israel."
The reservoir, located off the coast of the northern port city of Haifa, contains about 250 billion cubic meters of natural gas, enough to supply the country's domestic needs for the next 20 years at least.
Natural gas from a second reservoir named Leviathan is believed to contain twice the reserves as Tamar. It should be delivering within a few years.
Tamar's gas reserves are expected to save the government an estimated 13 billion shekels (more than $3.5 billion) annually.
Before the overthrow of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Israel and Jordan purchased natural gas from Egypt. Following the regime change, armed gangs in the Sinai blew up the pipeline continually, preventing delivery to Israel and to Jordan.
Israel uses natural gas to generate about 40 percent of its electricity.