Weekend power outages narrowly avoided

With no gas flowing from Egypt, Gilad Erdan was forced to approve Israel Electric Corporation's use of polluting fuel, diesel oil.

Egypt gas pipeline blast 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Egypt gas pipeline blast 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The first direct effects of the Egyptian upheaval on Israel were avoided Thursday after the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) asked for and received permission from Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan to run their turbines on polluting fuel and diesel oil on Saturday instead of natural gas.
A few months ago, Erdan issued orders preventing the IEC from burning the more highly polluting fuels without his express permission.
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The IEC was concerned it would not be able to meet demand over the weekend because the supply of natural gas from Egypt had yet to resume, and the domestic supply was going to be temporarily disrupted.
Noble Energy, which operates the Mari-B field that produces the other half of the gas to run some 40% of the IEC’s production capacity, has been begging for the last four weeks for a 12- hour hiatus from supplying gas to replace a pump. Although the IEC had been postponing granting permission in the hopes that the Egyptian gas would resume, it decided it could no longer put off the repairs, lest the capacity to meet demand over the summer be compromised, the electric company said Thursday.
According to a notice posted last week, EMG’s Egyptian gas supply to Israel is set to resume on Friday. However, a target date for resumption in mid-February was already missed.
On Thursday night, Erdan issued a one-time permit to burn the much more highly polluting fuel and diesel oils for 12 hours on Saturday, from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., to enable Noble to replace the pump.
Nevertheless, he took the opportunity to remind the IEC that the days of burning fuel and diesel oil were essentially over.
“The IEC, which for years was accustomed to burning polluting fuels when there were malfunctions, without addressing the environmental and health consequences, must understand that the rules of the game have changed, and I have no intention of giving them a blank check to pollute just because it’s cheaper,” he said in a statement.
“The Environmental Protection Ministry will continue to examine each request thoroughly, with the public interest in mind and not just the financial considerations that guide the IEC,” he continued.
“As a result of the limits we have placed on the IEC over the last month, since the gas stopped coming from Egypt, the excessive use of power stations running on fuel oil, like those in Ashdod, have been prevented.”
Only when there was absolutely no alternative would the ministry grant a temporary permit for a specified amount of time, as was the case this weekend, he said.
IEC Chairman of the Board Yiftah Ron-Tal responded to the granting of the permit.
“We are pleased that the environmental protection minister has acted responsibly with an awareness of the national significance of these instances to enable the IEC to meet its obligation to supply an essential service to the country’s citizens,” he said in a statement.
IEC CEO Amos Lasker confirmed that with the permit, the utility would be able to meet demand this weekend, and there was no longer a likelihood of power outages.