A poster protesting the possible harm to health and environment of natural gas drilling in the Mediterranean.
(photo credit: CITIZENS COALITION)
‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” as Marcellus said in Hamlet. Should anyone closer to home be repenting?
Back in November 2010 the initial findings of the Sheshinsky Commission were published on how to tax gas exploitation in Israel following the discovery of large quantities of gas in the Mediterranean off the coast of Israel.
The Commission’s work was controversial, prompting then finance minister Yuval Steinitz, who is now energy minister) to say: “I want to praise the Commission not only for its professional thorough work, but also for the exemplary way it withstood more than insignificant pressure from the day it was formed; in particular, the pressure and scare tactics that were directed personally against the chairman of the commission, Professor Sheshinsky and his family are to be condemned.”
Fast forward to the present – Rosh Hashana 5778 – and one million people from Netanya to Haifa are wondering what is inscribed for them… in the Tama 37/H gas plan. Not milk and honey apparently.What is Tama 37/H?
This is the descriptive national plan governing the development of Israel’s gas fields in the Mediterranean – Tamar, Karish, Tanin and Leviathan. The first three fields are being exploited; Leviathan will take a little longer.
The Leviathan field, located 125 kilometers west of Haifa, contains around 621 billion cubic meters of gas, which represents around 30 years of supply.
What does gas processing involve?
When raw gas is extracted from under the seabed, it has to be separated between pure gas and a by-product called condensate. Condensate is an oil product with various industrial uses and contains the chemicals benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX).
Unfortunately, the BTEX cocktail is volatile, flammable and explosive. Worse still, there is an A1 (significant) risk of cancer, and asthma is also possible. Therefore, condensate needs careful handling and storage far away from people.Where will the gas be handled?
There are two possibilities – far out to sea on floating FPSO platforms, or on fixed rigs close to the shore. FPSO is short for Floating Production, Storage and Offloading.
On August 30, 2017, the Israeli government approved FPSO platforms around 60 km. offshore for the Tanin and Karish gas fields.
As for Leviathan, the government has approved a fixed gas rig only 7.5-10 km. from the Israeli shore. According to Tama 37/H, there may be as many as 32 fixed rigs in two offshore blocks. A fixed gas rig is typically 55 meters high and its flame is 110 meters high.
All this will be clearly visible about half way to the horizon from the beach around the clock – a permanent blazing sunset.
Which places will be affected?
One Leviathan gas rig block will be close to the shores of Netanya, the other close to the shores of Caesaria-Zichron Ya’acov-Hof Dor. The first rig is currently under construction in Texas and will be located by the Hof Dor Nature Reserve.
In addition, there will be several onshore storage dumps for the condensate. The largest will be at Hagit, a rural beauty spot on Highway 70 near Zichron Ya’acov on a 243 dunam site. Since this is about 20 times the size needed for storage, there is speculation that the rest of the area may be reserved for the petrochemical industry and the rural beauty spot will vanish.
Economic and Health Dangers:
All this could be ugly and unhealthy for some one million people from Netanya to Haifa to Yokne’am.
Condensate is carcinogenic. Therefore, the property market and tourism sector in those areas may soon be blighted. Furthermore, the mechanical equipment and pipelines may break down and leak in the course of normal operations – not to mention hostile action.
All this may cause shore pollution, air pollution and sea pollution. It is unclear whether these issues were adequately factored into Tama 37/H.
Moreover, there is no mention of the fact that a gas rig throws polluted water back into the sea, which is used to produce drinking water in Israel’s distillation plants. How safe will our drinking water be? Also, a survey included in Tama 37/H states that there are no ecological receptors (living organisms) in the sea up to 10 km. from the shore of the Hof Dor nature reserve (TANAS Page 80). Anyone who has snorkeled in that area knows there are large shoals of pretty fish there.The Solution:
Gas is good for the Israeli economy. But the Israeli government should insist on Leviathan gas being handled on FPSO floating platforms 120 km. out to sea, well away from the Israeli population, not on fixed rigs close to the shore and in onshore dumps.
This was the original plan. It is mysterious how Tama 37/H was amended in 2016 and what the motive might have been. Negative theories abound. The Israeli government should review its policies fast.
People from Netanya to Haifa to Yokne’am should take note and take appropriate action.
Wishing all our readers a Shana Tova.As always, consult experienced advisers at an early stage in specific cases.
The writer is an accountant on a pro bono basis to “Guardians of the Coastal Plain,” a registered amuta (charity). With thanks to Dr Udi Ganani, chemical engineer and industrialist for his review of this article.