reading power station 88.
(photo credit: )
The Reading power station was scheduled to stop producing electricity at midnight Tuesday, reducing Israel's production capacity by about 4.5 percent and cutting the reliability of flow to the Tel Aviv area in half, the Israel Electric Company said.
Once the Reading line is deactivated, flow to the Tel Aviv area would be dependent on only one line.
The shutdown would reduce Israel's reserve from 7% above peak demand to 2.5%, whereas other countries generally try to maintain a reserve of 15%-30%, according to Reading manager Michael Bixon. Bad weather, he noted, could increase the chance of disruptions initiated to keep energy consumption in check.
The company, however, tried to reassure the public Tuesday that it would not be impacted by the closure.
"We invest enough in our system in order to withstand a situation like this, as well. There's no reason to spread panic among the public," Bixon said. "We'll just have to work harder."
The government ordered the Reading station to cease production after Israel Electric failed to switch the station's power source to natural gas from crude oil. Israel Electric originally was required to make the change by January 1, 2005, but received several extensions from the Environment Ministry leading to Tuesday's final deadline.
Israel Electric said the facility has been ready to begin burning natural gas provided through a pipeline reaching from Ashdod, but that the Natural Gas Lines company had delayed the switch by insisting that certain "modifications and repairs" be done on the underwater pipeline before allowing gas to be pumped through it. Natural Gas Lines believes that in several places the pipeline must receive additional support along the sea bed.
Natural Gas Lines CEO Dan Vardi said underwater systems experts from Inpec Engineering in London had determined that the pipeline cannot yet be used, and divided the required repairs into those that must be done before gas could be pumped through it and those which could be done afterwards. Vardi said both Israel Electric and Natural Gas Lines had agreed beforehand that Inpec's conclusions would bind both parties.
Israel Electric, however, believes the pipeline is in a good enough condition to begin supplying the station without delay, and that any changes and repairs could be made after the station is already running on natural gas, according to a spokesperson.
It will likely take between three and six months for the work to be done to Natural Gas Lines' specifications and for the order to be issued to begin pumping the gas.
Israel Electric built the marine gas line from Ashdod to Reading according to a government tender, by which the line would be transferred to Natural Gas Lines. The cost of building the line would then be subtracted from fees to be paid by Israel Electric to Natural Gas Lines for using the line.
Reading contains two of the country's 66 power production units of various sizes. The station produced 4.5% of Israel's power capacity prior to the shut-down, enough to supply the equivalent of 30% of demand from the greater Tel Aviv area, Bixon said.