The Mediterranean Sea natural gas purge starts amid protests in Israel

Leviathan natural gas rig off the coast of Haifa, Israel

Updated in 2019, a picture of the Levithan rig

Israel’s largest energy project, headed by Noble Energy, started production on Tuesday. It is a natural gas well only 10 kilometers or 7 miles from shore, near the coast of Haifa. This is the first step in a multi-billion dollar natural gas export deal with countries like Egypt and Jordan that will start in the next weeks. 

Families with young children and pregnant women were looking for shelter in Tel Aviv for fear that exposure to the natural gas pollution might cause long term damage to their fetuses and children. Risks from release at sea are highlighted in this PDF developed by the EU

But due to Israel’s unusual security constraints –- or threats by Al Qaeda and the Hezbollah –– it had to build its gas rig much closer to shore than deemed environmentally safe by some country’s standards. The recommended distance is about 40 km or 30 miles. 

When the issue of safety was taken to court no one could refute in professional terms why it is unsafe so the judge let it go ahead despite coastal mayors concerns about cancer risks. This article links to a court ruling in Colorado where Noble Energy had to pay fines for polluting emissions. 

Texas-based Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Drilling and Ratio Oil announced that operations had commenced this morning, and a significant amount of natural gas will be released to the sea. People in the city of Haifa are concerned and some have evacuated for fears over the damage from exposure. 

Polluting the Mediterranean?

Natural gas is a cleaner fuel but it is by no means renewable or environmentally sound. It burns cleaner but it produces greenhouses gases and pollution.

The gas off the Israeli coast began flowing from the offshore rig called Leviathan (means giant sea creature or whale in Hebrew) early this morning. The timing of when to start has been delayed time and time again but the operators needed to start the rig to meet their 2019 timeline. This is now the last day of the year.

natural gas rig leviathan

This new operation now doubles the amount of Israeli-produced natural gas, according to Reuters.  Some $3.6 billion USD went into developing the Leviathan natural gas rig and operations and gas exports are soon to commence. 

“Israel is now an energy powerhouse, able to supply all its energy needs and gaining energy independence,” said Delek Drilling Chief Executive Officer Yossi Abu.

Quick Guide to Israeli Solar Energy Companies

A subsea pipeline will transport the natural gas to Israel and to the consumers, also looking forward to paying less for electricity, currently generated by a mix of fossil fuels, coal and a small percentage of solar energy, about 2%. But paying less might just be a carrot dangling in the sky. Since Israel became more water independent with the installation of desalination plants the consumers in effect ended up paying more for water. 

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