Planners: Gas reception sites on land will be more environmentally friendly

Debate continues on whether these facilities would best be suited for establishment on land or sea.

By
November 4, 2013 18:48
4 minute read.
Gas reception facility.

gas noble 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Noble Energy)

 
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Architects charged with planning Israel’s northern gas reception facilities say constructing such infrastructure on land would present far fewer complications and environmental risks than doing so at sea.

“We don’t have any way to secure oil spills [at sea],” Gideon Lerman, one of the chief architects, told The Jerusalem Post following a tour of an existing gas reception facility on Sunday morning.

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“Oil spills will cost environmental damage. We need to separate the condensate from the gas onshore and store the gas onshore.”

Lerman, co-owner of Lerman Architects and Town Planners Ltd., was leading a press conference and tour of Noble Energy’s Ashdod gas reception facility on Sunday, the only such facility at the moment aside from one in Ashkelon. As part of the government’s national master plan TAMA-37-H, which details the infrastructure necessary for handling and treating Israel’s copious natural gas supplies, Lerman Architects won the bid to develop two northern reception facilities.

The debate continues, however, on whether these facilities would best be suited for establishment on land, at sea or a combination of the two.

Although residents of the northern coast have been championing the at-sea option, gas developers and planners stress the reduced potential for complications with the land option.

Because Israel’s electricity production and industry will soon rely on natural gas, creating a system that preserves safety, reliability and redundancy of gas supply in Israel is crucial, the Lerman Architects team said. Acknowledging that a combined solution is technically possible, the architects stressed that the recovery of the Israeli gas discoveries at such great depths presents complex engineering challenges.



Nearly half of Israel’s energy supply is based on natural gas, and the hope is to bring that number of to 75 percent by 2040, but there is still “no backup capability for the gas supply,” Lerman stressed.

“We are an energy island,” he said. “The gas stops flowing and we will have power outages.”

At Noble Energy’s gas receiving terminal in Ashdod, where gas began flowing in 2008, senior project engineer Ido Ben-Zion led journalists on a tour. Gas today flows from the Tamar reservoir in the Mediterranean to the Tamar treatment platform off the Ashdod coast, to a coastal valve station and then to the receiving terminal’s treatment facility, he explained.

All in all, the facility encompasses about 6 hectares of land.

Upon arrival, the gas travels through a boarding valve, then through a slug catcher that removes liquid plugs, then through a Joule-Thomson plant to regulate temperature and pressure and lastly through a metering apparatus.

Natural gas condensate liquid hydrocarbons from the Tamar reservoir, meanwhile, go through a stabilization process and enter huge tanks at the facility, Ben-Zion explained. A vent exists on site for use in emergency situations.

If the preferred plan of Lerman Architects receives government approval, two gas reception sites a bit larger than the Ashdod facility would be built in the Meretz sewage treatment facility site (Matash Meretz) and in the Hagit region, Lerman explained. At the Hagit site, a pipe would flow in from Hof Dor and south of Moshav Ofer until reaching Hagit, about 15 to 16 km. from the sea near Highway 70. The pipe’s journey to Matash Meretz would be about 13 km., coming in from the sea south of Hadera.

The Matash Meretz site would require about 9.7 hectares of land for the treatment gas and would have double the capacity of Noble Energy’s Ashdod facility, Lerman said. An additional 1.5 hectares of land would be needed for gas transmission lines, 1.4 hectares for fuel tanks and 0.4 hectares for unloading – as well as a 5.6- hectare “no man’s land” as per the request of the Environmental Protection Ministry.

The station will have a much larger area than does the Ashdod site for mixing the gas with mono-ethylene glycol (anti-freeze) during its treatment process, as much of this step – required for reducing the freezing point of the gas – occurs offshore in the south, Lerman added.

Hagit will have a similar structure to that of Matash Meretz, with slight changes due to differences in topography and the need for more supporting walls, he said.

Although the architects are allowing for the option of building offshore treatment facilities, depending on what the government decides, they favor the ones on dry land.

On November 12, the National Council for Planning and Building will hold a discussion on the program and likely transfer the plan to the District Committee for Planning and Building, which will then provide time for public opposition and comments from December through January, Lerman said. From March to May, research about the plans will then likely occur in addition to public hearings.

By June, Lerman continued, a discussion at the national council can then occur to recommend that the government approve the plan. The approval can take place by July, he added.

The architects have held meetings with protesters from the Emek Hefer region, who prefer that the gas processing facilities be at sea rather than in their backyards, Lerman said. Acknowledging that residents do not want to have the facilities next to their homes, he argued that the Israeli market would benefit much more from the reliable and redundant system that they plan to build on land.

Meanwhile, Lerman said the facilities would not pose any environmental or security risk, as they would have emergency shutdown valves and armored pipes, and be 600 m. away from any members of the public.

“We don’t perceive the problems of safety as crucial, because the facilities are so far form the public,” he said.

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