Leviathan gas platform test delayed, set to commence Tuesday

"The Ministry of Environmental Protection has reviewed the company's plans for the trial period," said the ministry in a statement.

An aerial view shows the newly arrived foundation platform of Leviathan natural gas field, in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Haifa (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
An aerial view shows the newly arrived foundation platform of Leviathan natural gas field, in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Haifa
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The final stage of testing at the offshore Leviathan natural gas platform may begin on Tuesday, according to instructions issued by the Ministry of Environmental Protection to operator Noble Energy on Friday.
While Noble applied for approval to start the delayed test on Monday, the ministry stated the company had failed to give the public two working days’ notice ahead of the operation as required, and can therefore only proceed the following day at the earliest.
Anchored to the sea bed 10 km. from Israel’s Mediterranean coast, the Leviathan platform is currently approaching the conclusion of a series of commissioning tests before starting to pump gas to Israel’s domestic market later this month, and subsequently to Egypt and Jordan.
Since the discovery of the Leviathan gas field in 2010, Noble Energy and partners Delek Drilling and Ratio Oil Exploration have invested $3.75b. in the project. One of the largest natural gas fields discovered worldwide in the last decade, the Leviathan reservoir is expected to contain up to 605 billion cu.m. of natural gas, equivalent to 65 years of domestic gas consumption.
“The Ministry of Environmental Protection has reviewed the company’s plans for the trial period,” the ministry said in a statement. “The findings showed that exceptional benzine levels are not expected along the coastline, particularly on significant test dates.”
During the testing period, representatives from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Energy will be present on both the platform and the beach to monitor pollution levels. Concentrations of pollutants along the coast will be continuously monitored, said the ministries, adding the test will be stopped in the “unlikely event” of a real-time increase in air pollution.
In February 2018, Delek Drilling and Noble Energy signed a $15b. decade-long deal to supply 64 billion cu.m. of natural gas to Egypt from the Leviathan and Tamar gas fields, with the latter already supplying natural gas to Israel since 2013.
The deal with Egypt follows a September 2016 agreement worth $10b. between Jordan’s National Electric Power Company Ltd. and the Leviathan project partners to supply a gross quantity of 45 billion cu.m. of natural gas to Israel’s eastern neighbor over a 15-year period.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz gave the green light on Monday to begin Israeli exports of natural gas to Egypt, ahead of an expected first flow between the countries on January 1, 2020. Approval was granted after completing necessary “professional procedures,” including the receipt of authorization from the Antitrust Authority and a recommendation from the Committee for the Reduction of Concentration.
Gas exports will be carried out from the Tamar and Leviathan gas reservoirs and are destined for both domestic Egyptian use and re-exportation of liquefied natural gas by Egypt. Gas supply to Egypt’s Dolphinus Holdings will be carried out via the 90 km. underwater EMG Pipeline, connecting Ashkelon to the Egyptian network near El-Arish.
The Energy Ministry’s approval provides for the export of a total of 60 billion cu. m. of natural gas from Leviathan and 25 bcm from Tamar.
On Thursday, a Jerusalem District Court canceled a temporary injunction issued against the test one day before, which had briefly prevented Noble Energy from conducting “operations involving gas emissions” at the gas field. The injunction followed an application submitted by five municipalities and the Zalul Environmental Association earlier in the week, claiming the test would result in harmful quantities of pollutant emissions.
“The Leviathan project has been subject to rigorous oversight by the ministries of energy and environmental protection and various other regulatory bodies,” said the Leviathan project partners in a statement following the court’s decision.
“We are proud of this world-class project which is poised to deliver natural gas for the benefit of Israel’s citizens and the region. The natural gas from Leviathan will improve Israel’s air quality by displacing coal, improve Israel’s environment, provide security of supply and create unprecedented commercial ties in the region.”
The Energy Ministry granted final approval for the first flow of gas from the Leviathan platform following the decision.
“A decade after the discovery of one of Israel’s largest natural treasures, the Leviathan reservoir, natural gas will start flowing from it to the shore,” said Steinitz.
“This is a historic day in the State of Israel, a significant milestone in the implementation of the natural gas framework, which will enable the conversion of power plants to use natural gas to reduce air pollution, and transform the State of Israel into a gas superpower with gas exports to Egypt and Jordan.”
Natural gas from the reservoir will be transmitted through two 120 km. underwater pipelines directly to the Leviathan platform, where it will be processed prior to flowing through a northern entry pipeline connected to the Israel Natural Gas Lines (INGL) national gas transmission system.

Tzvi Joffre contributed to this article.