Navy orders radar to protect natural gas buoy

Israel Electric Coporation ordered to bolster security around natural gas buoy slated to be built off Hadera coast.

February 9, 2012 00:14
2 minute read.
Tamar holds 240 billion cu.m of gas.

Tamar 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Concerned about terrorist attacks, the Defense Ministry has ordered Israel Electric Corporation to bolster security around a natural gas buoy that is slated to be built off the coast of Hadera.

The buoy is being installed to enable Israel to import natural gas in place of Egyptian gas, which has come to a near standstill since the revolution in Egypt last year.

According to the plan, ships will bring liquid natural gas by boat to a point some 10 kilometers off the coast. There, the gas tankers will connect to a “regasification ship,” which will turn the liquid gas back into gas and then send it through the buoy to the IEC power plant in Hadera.

Israel has decided to begin liquid gas imports due to the depletion of the Yam Thetis reservoir and the disruptions to the Egyptian gas supply. The newly discovered Tamar reservoir is not expected to begin operations until late 2013.

Israel’s concern is that Hezbollah will try to attack the Israeli gas rigs at sea in explosive-laden ships, or with anti-ship missiles. Iran has also recently announced plans to deploy warships in the Mediterranean.

The Israel Navy is particularly concerned about Syria’s purchase of the Yakhont anti-ship missile, which could be transferred to Hezbollah and be used against oil rigs. In February, the navy seized an Iranian-arms shipment that Israel said was destined for Hamas and included six Nasr-1 radar-guided anti-ship missiles.

The navy has already increased its patrols in the Mediterranean and is also using unmanned aerial vehicles to increase the range of its surveillance. It currently operates the Heron UAV, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, which comes with a special electro-optic payload for maritime operations.

On Tuesday, the Defense Ministry and the Israel Navy met with representatives of IEC and Israel Natural Gas Lines – both government-owned companies responsible for constructing and operating the new sea-based infrastructure.

During the meeting, the navy informed the companies of the new security demands, according to which they will need to deploy a sea-based radar to protect the buoy and deploy a tugboat which will be able to tow the regasificaton ship into port in the event of a risk.

The funding for the new security measures will come from the companies and not from the defense budget.

While the radar and tugboat will be purchased by the companies, the government is also considering upgrading the navy’s capabilities to enable it to more effectively protect the growing number of Israeli gas rigs in the Mediterranean Sea.

Under consideration is the possibility that the funds will be partially provided by the companies developing the gas fields off Israel’s coast, which are estimated to contain billions of barrels of natural gas.

The plan under consideration could see the procurement of ships such as Super Dvora Mk III class patrol boats built by Israel Aerospace Industries and Shaldag class fast patrol boats, which is manufactured by Israel Shipyards.

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