National Council pushes forward gas reception plan

Plan details infrastructure necessary for handling, treating Israel’s copious natural gas supplies.

The Tamar gas processing rig off the coast of Israel 370 (photo credit: Noble Energy)
The Tamar gas processing rig off the coast of Israel 370
(photo credit: Noble Energy)
The National Council for Planning and Building on Tuesday approved the transfer of a master plan for handling recently found offshore natural gas to a district committee for public comments and objections.
The plan, TAMA-37-H, details the necessary infrastructure for moving and processing the copious gas supplies. The firm Lerman Architects and Town Planners has been tasked with developing two land-based reception and processing points on the coast near Haifa.
Although environmentalists and local residents prefer an offshore option, the planners have advocated a program that relies on land facilities, explaining that such construction reduces complications and environmental risks. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commended the decision.
“This is an additional step on the way to utilizing this important natural resource for the benefit of the Israeli economy,” he said. “The quicker the processes can move forward the quicker it will be possible to lower the costs of electricity for Israeli consumers. I call on all those involved to expedite their work so that we will be able to enjoy this natural treasure as soon as possible.”
The Interior Ministry declared the program to be of “national importance,” saying it “will provide energy independence...
enabling the use of natural gas as a major source of energy production in Israel.”
The National Council for Planning and Building oversaw indepth studies of relevant alternatives both on land and at sea, taking into account the environmental impact by conducting extensive surveys and samples in all suggested locations, the ministry said.
The council members stressed that the program received the approval of the Environmental Protection Ministry. They also explained that to ensure a reliable gas supply to Israel, facilities at sea combined with treatment on land would be the optimal solution.
Nevertheless, some 1,500 residents from the Emek Hefer and Carmel regions gathered outside the council’s Jerusalem office on Tuesday to protest against the planned onshore facilities, citing safety reasons.
Rani Idan, head of the Emek Hefer Regional Council, said that despite having achieved “significant progress” over a previous plan, this was “only the beginning of the struggle” by residents.
“The discussion today [by the council] was decided in advance,” Idan declared. “We will continue to work toward proving to everyone that [the current plan] must be improved [and] that the processing of the gas must be done completely at sea.”
He called offshore processing the “quickest, cheapest and safest” alternative.
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel in conjunction with the Center for Local Government submitted a counter proposal during the council’s discussions, but received only six votes as opposed to the 13 in favor of the original plan.
The environmental organization Tzalul slammed the council for its decision, arguing that it had chosen to “jeopardize the security of the marine environment and residents alike.”