Israel Chemicals to reduce environmental damage

“There is no escaping these measures, which are a strategic plan formulated by the company after protracted discussions,” chief operating officer says.

March 26, 2011 22:44
3 minute read.
Israel Chemicals to reduce environmental damage

haifa petrochemicals . (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Israel Chemicals Ltd. is investing NIS 2 billion over five years in a range of environmental ventures, executive vice president and chief operating officer Asher Grinbaum told Globes in an interview last week.

“There is no escaping these measures, which are a strategic plan formulated by the company after protracted discussions,” he said. “Our customers abroad behave like a person who goes on a diet and goes to the supermarket and checks the number of calories in each product. They check each product and how much damage the production process does to the environment. A customer who feels the product being offered is unfriendly will not buy it.”

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Globes: The Dead Sea is drying up to a large extent because of you.

Grinbaum: “In the early 1960s the government took the strategic decision to build the national water carrier, and since then the flow of water from the Kinneret has significantly lessened. The sun shines and the water evaporates. We do not deny a degree of responsibility in the situation that has come about, but the Israeli public knows the facts and knows what is causing the Dead Sea to dry up – and that’s regardless of whether the Dead Sea Works or the Jordanian potash plant draw water from the sea to manufacture their products.”

Israel Chemicals has decided in principle to close down its oil-shale installation at Mishor Rotem in the Negev, Grinbaum said. The plant makes negligible profits, and Israel Chemicals decided it was better to close the plant rather than cause future damage to the environment, he said.

“In the coming weeks we will begin working in the region with natural gas, which is more environmentally friendly,” Grinbaum said. “Since we have entered the gas era, the need has opened up to look for other energy sources. The introduction of natural gas into the economy has changed the way we look at everything.

“In the future, a power station run by natural gas will operate two kilometers from the oil-shale installation at Mishor Rotem. This is what makes Israel Chemicals a sustainable company, and it trickles down into all our discussions of how we lead measures that will leave a smaller footprint.”

Environmental plans

Over the past few years, some of Israel Chemical’s environmental plans have already been implemented at the company’s factories and installations at an investment of NIS 1 billion. An “Israel Chemicals green revolution” took place five years ago when Grinbaum managed potash mining activities at Rotem.

“I was new in the job,” he said. “One of the workers came up to me and told me about a problem.

There was a large fire in the Gamla National Reserve in the Golan Heights, and many vultures had taken refuge in the Mishor Rotem region where we mine phosphates. Two pairs of vultures built themselves a comfortable nest on a cliff, and the noise from our factory was disturbing them.

“[It was suggested] that we stop mining for two months. At first I thought they were pulling my leg and having a joke, and I checked to see if it was April 1. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority people came and said it wasn’t a joke. We looked with binoculars and saw the vultures nesting. They told me that if we continue mining they would fly away, and that would be a shame. I thought about it and stopped mining for more than two months. That was when I realized that we are not the only ones in out there.”

“Since then, Israel Chemicals staff routinely feed vultures in open areas far away from the company’s plants in the Negev, so that the big birds of prey will not nest nearby,” Grinbaum said. “Today, the Negev vultures have flourished, and there are 160 of them.”

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