Yam Thetis began pumping natural gas from its platform off the coast of Ashkelon to the Ashdod oil refinery Wednesday, Oil Refineries (Bazan), the facility's operator, said.
The gas will replace crude oil as the fuel powering the facility's internal refining processes, and will also be used by the power station soon to be built at the site, as well as other industrial facilities in the Ashdod area.
The Ashdod oil refinery is the first industrial facility to link with the system being set up by Israel
Natural Gas Lines, and is the first industrial client in Israel to use natural gas for low-cost, in-house energy production, the company said.
Israel Electric began using natural gas for energy production in the beginning of the year, and has already saved hundreds of millions of shekels and reduced harmful emissions due to the switch.
Ashdod's oil refinery received the gas from the first completed section of a piping system that will curve from Ashkelon to Ashdod via Kiryat Gat and Gezer, to be completed in July 2006. A further section will link the system eastward to Sdom on the Dead Sea
. Eventually, the system will bring natural gas north to the concentration of industrial facilities on Haifa Bay, yet that segment of the plan has yet to receive government approval and funding.
Oil Refineries chairman Ohad Marani called on the government to accelerate realization of the "national project" to bring natural gas across Israel and to the North, hailing the switch to natural gas from crude and diesel as a "revolution" in the country's energy infrastructure.
"Use of natural gas contains strategic potential of the first degree economically, politically, socially and environmentally," he said. "Natural gas will contribute to the economy as a whole... and improve the quality of life."
The pipe feeding the Ashdod oil refinery was built by Yam Thetis. The 92-kilometer Ashkelon-Ashdod loop will be built at a cost of NIS 280 million by Solel Boneh
in conjunction with the Italian firm Ghizzoni, as will the 135-km. pipeline to the Dead Sea.