Despite setbacks, Leviathan partners target gas flow within days

The Environmental Protection Ministry said it had not yet been satisfied by measures to sample.

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)
Natural gas will start to flow from the Leviathan gas platform in the “coming days,” the partners behind the mammoth energy project vowed Tuesday after the government again halted tests at the offshore installation at the last minute.
Only nine hours before the final, delayed stage of testing was scheduled to begin on Tuesday morning, the Environmental Protection Ministry said platform operator Noble Energy had “failed to comply with all the strict requirements and conditions” that were required prior to commencing operations. “After examining the Environmental Protection Ministry’s announcement, we believe that the flow of natural gas from the Leviathan reservoir will commence in the coming days,” said the Leviathan project partners in a statement.
“The Leviathan platform meets all of the most stringent environmental protection conditions, as determined by the Environmental Protection Ministry and competent bodies,” the statement said. “All official bodies have explicitly stated that there is no danger forecast from the operation of the platform, and this assessment has not changed at all. The courts have rejected all requests to prevent the test of the platform and flow of gas.”
The Environmental Protection Ministry said it had not yet been satisfied by measures to sample and monitor pollution at the rig and along the coast during the final testing procedure, during which natural gas will compress nitrogen currently filling pipes in the platform.
Noble Energy will also be required to give two days’ notice to the public ahead of the rescheduled procedure, which environmental groups and local residents have claimed will significantly increase pollution along the nearby coastline.
Guy Samet, director-general of the Environmental Protection Ministry, told Army Radio on Tuesday that he now expects the test to be carried out next week.
“There is no fear that there will be any health risk or significant increase in what people are breathing on the Carmel Coast when the procedure is carried out,” he said. “We are certain that there is far more air pollution and benzene in metropolitan areas than the Carmel Coast,” Samet said, adding that local residents would not benefit by leaving their homes during the testing period.
The environmental group Homeland Guards, which has spearheaded opposition to the establishment of the platform constructed 10 km. from the country’s northern coast, praised the postponement of the test.
Osnat Pevzner, a holistic therapist from Pardes Hanna and prominent Homeland Guards activist, told The Jerusalem Post that repeated delays had caused “confusion, fear, a lot of uncertainty and damage to daily life,” which has led to loss of income.
“A lot of residents, including myself, do not want to be in the area while pollutants are being emitted into the air, but since nothing is orderly or certain in reporting or setting the [testing] date by those responsible, the question is constantly hovering in the background and creating great tension,” said Pevzner, who is also a mother.
“Some people, many of them with small children, packed up and left the area by Monday morning, and it was all canceled in the end. Many people only found about the cancellation in the morning. There is a feeling of contempt for our routine, our commitments, our livelihood and especially our security and trust... The lack of transparency and flow of information creates an unpleasant feeling that there is nobody we can trust.”
Homeland Guards said it would be rescheduling a major protest, due to take place in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, for the next test date set by Noble Energy, bringing together residents opting to leave their houses due to fear of increased pollutant emissions.
Hailing a “magnificent achievement,” former Knesset member and Green Movement leader Yael Cohen-Paran said that the Environmental Protection Ministry had shown “rare and extraordinary courage in the face of tycoons.”
“[The postponement] didn’t just come out of nowhere,” Cohen-Paran wrote on Twitter. “It happened thanks to the unrelenting public struggle of concerned activists and citizens. The lack of professionalism of the ministry brought us to this stage.”
The Leviathan reservoir, one of the largest natural gas fields discovered worldwide in the last decade, is thought to contain up to 605 billion cu.m. (bcm) of natural gas, equivalent to 65 years of domestic gas consumption. Following the conclusion of a series of commissioning tests, the platform is due to pump gas to Israel’s domestic market and to neighbors 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 $3.75 billion in the project.
Lucrative exports of natural gas to Egypt from Leviathan and the Tamar gas field, already in operation since 2013, were approved by Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz last week after the completion of “professional procedures,” including the receipt of authorization from the Antitrust Authority and a recommendation from the Committee for the Reduction of Concentration.
In February 2018, Delek Drilling and Noble Energy signed a $15b. decade-long deal to supply 64 bcm of natural gas to Egypt from the offshore gas fields. The deal 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 bcm of natural gas to Israel’s eastern neighbor over a 15-year period.