Plans for Be’er Tuviya gas facility rattle locals
Residents unconvinced by developers assurances that operations will pose no risk to surrounding population.
Site of planned natural gas plant in Be'er Tuviyah. Photo: Sharon Udasin
A rectangular slab of green grass sandwiched between the Ben & Jerry’s and
Tnuva factories has become the object of ever-increasing tension between those
aiming to build a natural gas plant there and residents resolute to stop its
The prospective natural gas plant in question is that of IPM Be’er Tuviya,
located just north of Timorim and south of Kiryat Malachi in the Be'er Tuviya
Industrial Zone. While residents have complained that the facility might hold up
35 tons (31,752 kilograms) of natural gas, as well as 9,000 cubic meters of
diesel and pipes carrying an additional 170 tons (154,221 kilograms) of gas to
the area, the company has presented vastly different numbers regarding contents.
The plant will be holding only 500 kilogram of gas, split into two containers,
representatives of IPM Be'er Tuviya said.
Regarding these differences in numbers, the Interior Ministry told The
Jerusalem Post that an updated protocol has not yet been issued, so it
will take time to determine the exact amounts. For the time being, the
ministry suggested relying on the company's estimates rather than those
of the residents.
While residents have been actively protesting the construction of
the natural gas plant in the industrial zone for several years, November’s
Operation Pillar of Defense – during which several devastating rockets hit the
area – jolted them even further. Not only would the natural gas plant itself
thereby pose a serious risk, but so would the facility’s proximity to open-air
ammonia and chemical tankers, the residents say. An explosion at the natural gas
plant could cause what the residents describe as a “domino effect,” a
possibility that the company vehemently rejects.
“The containers are wide
open; they are not protected or shielded,” the leader of the residents, Adva
Dror, tells The Jerusalem Post during a visit near the site last week. “They can
be easily damaged.”
While factories like Tnuva and Ben & Jerry’s have
ammonia tanks, other plants along the perimeter of the planned site store
chemicals such as highly flammable acetone and various pesticides, she
Those in favor of the project have argued that this natural gas
plant is no closer to local populations than many other power stations, such as
those in Ashkelon or Tel Aviv – which are also vulnerable to rocket
Yet Dror stresses that this situation is different because not only
is the factory close to the public and in rocket range, but it is also located
right next to an ammonia tank.
“The necessity of the plant is different,”
“In Ashkelon you already have the coal power plant, so it’s
right next to it and is supposed to decrease the pollution.”
Tuviya Regional Council area, in comparison, has very little existing pollution
to curb, she explains.
“Basically, the main polluter here will be the gas
plant,” Dror says.
Be’er Tuviya and Kiryat Malachi residents are not
against erecting natural gas plants per se, she notes, stressing that they have
generated five alternative locations – two of which are right behind
The NIS 2 billion gas plant is slated to have a total capacity
of 428 megawatts – approximately the size of Reading in Tel Aviv – with steam
and natural gas turbine combined cycle, according to the developers.
group responsible for building the plant is Israel Power Management 3000 (IPM),
20 percent of which is held by a group of investors and 80 percent by the
company Triple-M, which purchased its share of the project from Shikun V’Binui
two years ago, firm representatives told the Post. The project first received
Be’er Tuviya Regional Council support in May 2006, which was followed by a
production license authorization by the government in April 2007 – after the
plans were deemed a national infrastructures project, the company says. All
preliminary zoning processes were concluded in February 2008, and the company
presented its plans to the National Infrastructures Committee on November 30,
Although in January the Southern District Committee for Planning
and Building recommended that the project not yet receive approval, the National
Infrastructures Committee decided to okay the plan last week.
to the fact that regional council head Dror Shore had voiced support for the
site in a 2006 letter, a council spokeswoman said that Shore has invested much
of his time persuading businessmen and industrialists to set up their operations
in Be’er Tuviya, which has resulted in a successful increase of residents’
“In a preliminary meeting with the developers, like in any
meeting, the mayor welcomed the anticipated income,” the spokeswoman
“After studying the safety aspects related to the establishment of
the power station, he decided to propose to the developers alternatives
elsewhere in the council due to the concentration of hazardous substances in the
designated area. It is important to note that all officials have announced that
there is no risk in establishing a power plant in this area.
decision to build the station, the mayor believes that it is necessary to shield
the area and handle the concentration of dangerous chemicals at the site,” the
spokeswoman continued. “Until these actions are implemented, we cannot establish
such a station in this designated area and, therefore, the council will submit a
petition to the High Court of Justice.”
In the face of vows from the
regional council and the residents to file such petitions, IPM representatives
say they hope to reach financial closing on the plant by the last quarter of
2013 and begin operations by the end of 2015. Getting their gas plant under way
will help contribute to the country’s energy security as well as provide
competition with the Israel Electric Corporation, a goal promoted by the Energy
and Water Ministry. The government, the company said, has encouraged IPM to
construct a facility in an industrial zone.
While other private natural
gas facilities are moving forward rapidly, however, development at the Be’er
Tuviya site has been slowed, despite the fact that many of the factories in the
industrial zone have already signed agreements with IPM to purchase gas directly
from their future facility, the company explained.
This site is optimal,
according to the company, due to government desires for constructing gas
facilities in industrial areas over agricultural or nature zones, as well as its
proximity to the electricity grid and the natural gas transmission lines. This
location was chosen after reviewing many alternatives and after the National
Infrastructures Committee demanded that the company conduct a comprehensive
environmental risk analysis, the firm stressed.
If a rocket was to hit
the Pressure Reduction and Natural Gas Metering Station (PRMS), it could be
dangerous for up to one minute, and afterwards, the heated gas would rise
straight up as a flame, rather than creating a domino effect among the adjacent
chemical containers, the company says, noting that the Defense Ministry has also
confirmed that no risks exist. The PRMS itself would be owned by the government,
not by the company, and would remain financially insured. However, the company
will take precautions and building a protective shelter around the PRMS and
surround the pipelines with concrete.
In response, residents argue that
another report by an investigator for the National Infrastructures Committee
itself demonstrated that the gas could quickly cool and drop down onto to the
“You can see from around the world the area of the
damage from accidents at gas stations,” Dror said.
“You can see who it
spreads all around.” So dangerous is the area, Dror contends, that during the
November conflict, the government evacuated portions of the ammonia from the
Be’er Tuviya Industrial Zone.
Despite having much less ammonia than the
container in the Haifa region, the site faces similar vulnerabilities as the
northern container – which has been seen as a potential target for Hezbollah,
“Every time there’s a situation in Gaza, the emergency level
here rises,” Dror says. “Every time there is a leak or fire in one of the plants
here, they automatically close the entire industrial area.”
Yeshurun, another concerned citizen from neighboring Avigdor, goes so far as to
call the prospective natural gas plant a “detonator.” An accident at a secluded
power plant would be one thing, he, says, but such an incident at a facility
situated in this industrial zone is another situation entirely. “I’m not saying
we welcome the air pollution, but it’s not the air pollution we are fighting,”
A risk analysis conducted by American firm GexCon US, Inc. on
behalf of the residents determined that the IPM environmental assessment is
unacceptable and disregards the occurrence of intentional events like rocket
attacks. This same report alleges that Israeli regulations regarding power plant
establishment are not up to par with international standards.
Yeshurun call upon the government to conduct environmental risk assessments that
examine the potential dangers of the site during wartime and not simply during
“If you really think that this is the place that the
Israeli government cannot live without it, show us the real risk,” Dror says.
“Don’t tell us there’s no risk or cover things up.”
While the regional
council had formally proposed seven alternatives, all have been rejected,
Yeshurun says. This has prompted the residents to offer five of their own
suggestions, with the first two in the fields of Timorim – one south of the
water reservoir and the other southeast of the village and next to a biogas
plant that is already zoned for power generation. The third alternative is in
Kedma at an abandoned quarry, and the last two are farther away, near Tzafit,
“How can you expect the company which has easy land
available to them to objectively check the other alternatives?” Yeshurun asks,
accusing the National Infrastructures Committee of not acting as a proper
The alternative suggested in Timorim next to the biogas plant
would be the optimal solution, but the developers have rejected this option as
being too close to Ayala Stream – despite its very close proximity to gas lines
and the electricity grid, Dror says. The next most favorable option would be the
Kedma site, as converting a zone from quarry to power station land is simpler
than doing so in agricultural fields, she explains.
advocacy group Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union Environmental Defense) in the past
assessed the situation and became involved with the residents and a public
partnership that the original Shikun V’Binui owners had launched, explains Keren
Halperin, the organization’s legal department head.
However, since the
land was transferred to the new owners, Adam Teva saw that the residents were
wellorganized and that the regional council was working against the plan, so the
group left the picture, Halperin says.
While the residents say they fear
the safety risks of the plant, they also warn that the facility’s establishment
could hamper economic growth. For example, northwest of Timorim and north of the
industrial zone, a commercial area with new ballrooms and restaurants is being
developed, Dror says, fearing that these projects will slow with the emergence
of the gas plant.
“This area is the economic future of all the residents
here and in Kiryat Malachi,” she says, stressing that the area’s commercial
services are quite low. “Putting this gas plant here will totally kill the
development of this area.” Likewise, Kiryat Malachi – a city of 23,000 mostly
low socioeconomic residents – was slated to see the construction of 1,700 new
apartment units in an expanded 55-hectare (136-acre) area to its south. However,
due to the plans to build the gas plant, “no contractor wants to go into the
tender,” according to Moshe “Shimi” Shimon, a former Kiryat Malachi
In response to all of the residents’ allegations, executives at
IPM say that they prefer to leave the decisions in the hands of the National
Infrastructure Committee and not provide further comment.
arguments and objections of the residents were brought in full to planning
officials of the state, which, after receiving our response, approved the
establishment of the natural gas energy plant – to be established on the basis
of the high technological and safety standards and with aspects of
sustainability, in accordance with government policy and in a professional and