Israeli natural gas field in the Mediterranean.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Natural gas resumed flowing to Israel's shores Wednesday Morning after a rig cracked five days ago in the country’s only operating offshore natural-gas field, forcing it to use dirtier backup fuels.
“[We] estimate that if all the engineering and safety checks go well and there are no unexpected delays, gas will begin flowing in the pipeline tonight, and the supply of gas to customers will be renewed in the early hours of the morning,” stated a Tuesday press release from Nobel Energy, the company that operates the Tamar gas field.
The National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry confirmed the timeline, adding that only 50% of the usual quantity will be pumped out.
The repair comes earlier than expected, as the company previously promised to fix the cracked pipeline by the end of the week. Supplies were halted last Thursday after inspectors found a crack in a pipeline during a scheduled maintenance procedure held over Rosh Hashana. The ongoing maintenance is expected to continue until mid-October, during which time supplies may be periodically cut to 50%.
The Tamar field supplies Israel with some 65% of its energy needs. With the shutoff in gas supplies, Israeli power plants were forced to run on diesel, coal, fuel oil and imported liquefied natural gas, which are more expensive and more polluting.
The weeklong cutoff in natural gas supplies is also expected to lead to a slight increase in electricity bills for Israelis.
With the repairs, personnel and equipment had to be flown in from Houston, Texas, to fix the off-shore processing rig. The barge is based some 24 km. from Ashkelon. The Tamar gas field, meanwhile, is located some 80 kilometers off the shore of Haifa, in waters 1,700 meters deep.
The Israel Electric Corporation, the country’s main utility, had initially prepared for a 50% decrease in natural gas supplies, not a total cutoff. No pollution leaked from the crack, an Energy Ministry spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post
Tamar began pumping gas in 2013 and since then it has produced some 1 trillion cubic feet of gas. The government had wanted to connect a neighboring gas field, Leviathan, by 2016 but anti-trust concerns delayed installation.
National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz said that the expedited repairs would stabilize the energy market. “We continue to monitor the repair of the problem and prepare the economy in the best possible way for every possible scenario,” Steinitz said.