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JERUSALEM, Nov 6 (Reuters) - A U.S.-Israeli energy consortium drilling in the eastern Mediterranean said on Sunday it found "initial indications" of natural gas at a field called Dolphin 1, although estimates have said it is much smaller than the nearby Tamar prospect.
Ratio Oil , one of the partners in the exploration group, reported to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that "initial indications" show the sands at the drill site, some 110 km off Israel's coast, contain natural gas.
The company said it was too early to determine the size of the gas layer and the quality of the reservoir. An earlier assessment provided by a consulting firm estimated that Dolphin 1 contained 0.55 trillion cubic feet of gas (tcf).
That is much smaller than the nearby Tamar field, discovered in 2009 to have 8.4 tcf of gas, which sparked an exploration frenzy in the eastern Mediterranean's Levant Basin.
Israel has ordered energy companies to speed up drilling to help stave of a temporary gas shortage that is expected to hit before production begins at Tamar in about two year's time.
Texas-based Noble Energy has a 39.66 percent stake in the Dolphin prospect. Avner Oil and Delek Drilling each own 22.67 percent. Ratio Oil owns 15 percent.
The same group made the world's largest off-shore discovery of the past decade at the Leviathan site last year, which is estimated to have 16 tcf of natural gas.