'Israel must diversify energy sources despite gas find'

The goal is to reduce coal to 60% of Israel's energy setup, and increase natural gas to 40-45% by 2020.

power plant 88 (photo credit: )
power plant 88
(photo credit: )
While the discovery of a potentially massive natural gas field off the coast of Haifa is significant for Israel's energy economy, it will not allow the country to abandon efforts to diversify its energy sources, including more environmentally unfriendly solutions like coal, Eco-Energy CEO Dr. Amit Mor told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. The find, known as the Tamar prospect and estimated at 88 billion cubic meters, is big and important, Mor said, but Israel needs to "diversify its energy sources to achieve energy security." Right now, Israel's energy setup is about 70 percent coal and 30% natural gas, Mor said. The goal is to reduce coal to 60% and increase natural gas to 40-45% and alternative energy to 10% by 2020. That goal of 40-45% natural gas is one of the highest in the Western world, both Mor and the National Infrastructures Ministry said. Mor insisted that Israel still needs to pursue deals with British Gas for the natural gas in the Gaza Marine site off of the Gaza Strip and continue its 20-year deal with Egypt to import gas. Regarding coal, the ministry has been planning Ashkelon's Project D, a coal-powered plant set to be launched in 2014-15, much to the dismay of environmentalists. In light of the Tamar discovery off Haifa announced on Sunday morning, there were strident calls from major environmental organizations to scrap the plan for Project D. Of the three major sources of Israeli energy, coal, natural gas and renewables, coal is by far the most polluting. However, the ministry responded to a Post query by reaffirming the need for Project D. "The discovery is not enough by itself and cannot replace other necessary projects for the energy market like Project D in Ashkelon," a spokesman replied in an e-mail. Mor agreed. According to Eco-Energy's assessments, demand for natural gas will total 200-250 b.cu.m. from now until 2030. Tamar's potential, while very high, is only about a third of that. "What is really important, over and above this discovery," Mor argued, "is importing liquefied natural gas [LNG]. We must diversify our energy sources to maintain energy security. The Yam Thetis field [off the coast of Ashkelon] is almost depleted and one possibility is to use the platform and field at Yam Thetis to offload the LNG and store it." LNG can be purchased from many regions all over the world, such as North Africa, the Persian Gulf, Australia and others, according to Mor. He also said that Project D, though necessary, could be built using technology that would reduce its pollution by 15-20%. "We urge the government to build the plant using ultra-supercritical technology. Right now, it's slated to be a plant using supercritial technology. Upgrading it would make it 15-20% more efficient and reduce its emissions by 15-20%," he said. Such a plant would cost another $500 million to build, he added. Israel is currently facing a severe natural gas shortage because Egypt is only providing about half of the 1.7-2 b.cu.m./yr it is supposed to, Mor said. Finding new energy sources is very important to reduce dependence on one problematic source, he added. "The new discovery, assuming it is verified in the coming weeks, is a great boost to the economy, but it won't alleviate the energy crisis that we will be experiencing for the next 4-5 years," he concluded.