State Comptroller probing why fuel platform being constructed near Israeli coast

Amid bitter opposition from environmentalists and others, the State Comptroller is wanting into the extent to which safety issues had been related to the federal government’s choice to find the processing ­­platform for Israel’s largest pure fuel subject simply 10 kilometers from the shores of central Israel, The Times of Israel has realized.

Citizens’ teams, a number of native authorities, environmental NGOs and a clutch of teachers are preventing an 11th-hour marketing campaign to reverse the choice and have the processing platform moved 125 kilometers away from the coast, to the realm of the fuel wells themselves.

The protesters concern {that a} platform so near densely populated areas of the nation dangers a serious environmental and public well being catastrophe.

The authorities and Noble Energy — the Texas-based firm which is growing and working the sector — strongly deny the claims. A senior determine at Noble Energy, Israel instructed The Times of Israel that the $Four billion Leviathan is 60% full and irreversible.

Built within the United States, the processing platform is because of arrive off-shore in December, and its legs are to be lowered into the ocean the next month simply 9.7 km (six miles) from the favored Dor Beach, north of Caesarea. Production is because of begin a 12 months later.

In a associated concern over the Leviathan venture, among the protesters additionally alleged in Haifa District Court this week that the federal government has given a allow for a extremely poisonous by-product of the fuel to be piped on land, with out assembly key environmental situations set by the court docket earlier this 12 months.

Israelis demonstrating near the Knesset, Jerusalem, in opposition to a choice to find the Leviathan pure fuel processing platform ten kilometers from central Israel’s shore, June 12, 2018. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90

The course of and the position

After extraction, uncooked pure fuel should be processed to separate the dry fuel utilized by energy vegetation to run their generators from two different predominant parts — condensate and waste water.

Condensate types when fuel cools as stress drops and it rises to the floor of the ocean.  Used within the oil business, it accommodates harmful and carcinogenic merchandise reminiscent of benzene and arsenic.

Waste water that comes out of the effectively accommodates excessive concentrations of heavy metals, mercury and lead.

Throughout the world, firms course of each fuel and oil both on land, on platforms close to the shore, or on a floating vessel near the wells themselves.

Noble Energy, which developed Israel’s first main pure fuel subject, Tamar, initially deliberate to find processing for the Leviathan subject close to the wells on an FPSO (Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading), a big floating vessel.

BP’s FPSO (Floating, Production, Storage, Offloading) Schiehallion at Keppel Verolme Shipyard, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, (Arno-nl, Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-4.0)

While the fuel is piped to shore from an FPSO, the condensate is loaded onto tankers to be taken wherever it’s wanted.

In a 2013 submission to the National Planning and Building Council, which was charged with creating what turned generally known as National Outline Plan 37 H for all of Israel’s fuel fields, the Environmental Protection Ministry really helpful that as a lot processing as doable be carried out at sea.

But in keeping with witnesses who spoke to The Times of Israel, the Council refused to debate an FPSO choice. This was apparently as a result of it had obtained mistaken technical recommendation concerning the variety of such vessels that will be wanted, and flawed authorized recommendation that it lacked the authority to cope with issues past Israel’s territorial waters, which finish 22 km (13.5 miles) from the shore.

The Council leaned towards a land-based processing facility, which was what the federal government then authorized.

But in response to a petition, the High Court subsequently ordered {that a} sea-based choice be thought-about in spite of everything.

That course of led the federal government to resolve in 2016 to find the platform lower than 10 km from Dor seaside.

People benefit from the swimming pools created within the ruins of an historic port metropolis, at Dor Beach, close to Haifa, in northern Israel, September 9, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

But within the case of two smaller fuel fields, Karish (shark in Hebrew) and Tanin (crocodile), the federal government did approve use of an FPSO. In explaining the advantages of the floating vessel, the corporate growing these two fields, Energean, mentioned, “Using an FPSO positioned 75km (46 miles) from the Israel coast ought to consequence within the growth having very low environmental impacts, considerably lower than the opposite schemes thought-about.”

The spokesperson added, “Environmental impacts must be decrease throughout all venture phases: development, operation and abandonment. …The FPSO scheme additionally limits the potential for oil air pollution ensuing from pipeline leaks. Hydrocarbon liquids [condensate] will not be transported to shore and therefore the consequence of any spillage is considerably diminished,”

Asked why the federal government determined to find Leviathan’s processing facility near the shore, whereas Karish and Tanin will use an FPSO, the Energy Ministry instructed The Times of Israel the previous was chosen “after many exams, an environmental affect evaluation and the concerns of the safety institution.”

Model of the Leviathan pure fuel processing fuel platform. (YouTube screenshot)

Ya’alon steps in

Leviathan holds ten instances extra fuel than Karish and Tanin mixed, and twice as a lot as Tamar, a spokesman mentioned, and solely a near-shore choice might assure its protection.

“Leviathan is of important significance to Israel’s financial system and due to this fact it’s preferable that its manufacturing services be positioned inside Israel’s territorial waters to make sure most safety for our power safety in addition to reliability of provide.”

An military spokesperson instructed The Times of Israel that the IDF had been charged with defending Israel’s unique financial zone, which extends 230 miles, or 370 km, from the coast.

“The IDF, through the navy, is aware of defend the entire financial zone. That mentioned, finding the [gas] services in shut proximity to the shore will enhance the extent of protection for them. We emphasize that the choice relating to the platform’s location is just not restricted to safety concerns, neither is it throughout the jurisdiction of the IDF.”

Former protection minister Moshe Ya’alon offers a speech on the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, September 15, 2016. (Screenshot)

Late final month, nonetheless, former protection minister Moshe Ya’alon — a pointy critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a self-declared candidate for prime minister — threw a spoke into the wheels of the safety reasoning when he revealed to Home Guardians, one of many citizen teams campaigning for an FPSO, that throughout his tenure from 2013 to 2016, the plan was to find the manufacturing services near the wells and that no discussions had been ever held about transferring them nearer to the shore.

Ya’alon checked lately with senior protection brass who, he wrote to Home Guardians, knew nothing concerning the location change.

On the opposite,  he wrote that he noticed a “protection benefit” to a Leviathan FPSO, as a result of new warships ordered to defend the fuel platforms within the Mediterranean Sea had been “supposed to offer protection protection to the drilling wells and manufacturing platform as one unit.”

Ya’alon added that, “if the difficulty had been introduced earlier than me for a safety evaluation, I’d have really helpful approving the unique plan which was primarily based on a sea platform near the Leviathan drilling and never a separate platform near the shore.”

Ya’alon resigned from the federal government on May 20, 2016.

The near-shore location of the platform was authorized by the federal government a month earlier than he left.

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira attends the presentation of the State Comptroller’s report on the Knesset, March 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ya’alon requested the state comptroller to look into the matter. Now, certainly, a spokesman for the ombudsman instructed The Times of Israel, “the safety facet of the decision-making course of relating to the placement of the fuel platform is being examined.”

The first of 4 German-built Sa’ar 6 corvettes is because of attain Israel in November 2019 to be outfitted with extremely delicate detection gear, offensive weapons and interceptors for each less complicated ballistic assaults and superior guided missiles.

Great trigger for concern?

Those campaigning for the platform to get replaced by an FPSO or one thing related, could have woken up too late.

After efficiently serving to to drive the federal government to alter course over the placement of the Tamar platform — which is right this moment located 23 km (14 miles) off the coast, near the southern metropolis of Ashkelon — they had been caught off guard by the plan for such a near-shore platform for Leviathan and had been shocked to find Environmental Protection Ministry figures for probably carcinogenic air emissions from Tamar.

Data for 2016, printed by the ministry in November 2017, clearly reveals that emissions from Tamar which can be “identified or suspected to be carcinogenic” equaled the whole of such emissions from 570 massive industrial vegetation throughout the nation, together with the Haifa oil refineries.

Indeed, in keeping with Amy Rosenstein, a threat evaluation and toxicology advisor, Tamar’s non-methane VOC emissions (quite a lot of chemically totally different compounds, reminiscent of extremely carcinogenic benzene) had been 30 instances larger than Noble had initially predicted within the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) it had been required to hold out earlier than working the sector.

In one thing of a rearguard motion, the ministry ordered Noble to design a program for emissions discount to be included as situations for a license that was on account of be signed within the first half of this 12 months.

The Energy Ministry has in the meantime introduced on-line that Tamar’s platform can be upgraded to cut back complete air emissions from 1160 tons to only ten tons per 12 months.

In mild of those revelations, the folks residing inside a radius of Dor seaside are questioning whether or not they can belief Noble’s guarantees concerning the Leviathan platform’s security.

Prof. Richard Steiner, a world knowledgeable on marine conservation, who advises governments and citizen teams concerning the affect of drilling and mining, instructed a press convention organized by the campaigners earlier this month that on the idea of the publicly obtainable info, there was nice trigger for concern.

He mentioned he noticed “an previous sample of governments accepting info from the business” and of an “inherent contradiction within the authorities’s function as each the beneficiary of revenues and the regulator.”

Prof. Rick Steiner at a press convention in Tel Aviv, August 1, 2018. (Sue Surkes)

To buttress his declare that the federal government is behaving with a scarcity of transparency, he displayed a 2017 modification to a 2016 environmental affect evaluation carried out for Noble Energy wherein many of the info within the second half of the doc has been ‘redacted’, or blacked out. (See from p. 31).

“Everything we have to know concerning the technical particulars for making this a protected venture has been eradicated,” he mentioned. “When we requested why, they mentioned it was to guard safety and business secrets and techniques.

“On a every day foundation, the priority [about a platform so close to shore] is marine discharge from waste water, which accommodates heavy metals, in addition to air air pollution, noise, seabed habitat disturbance and the visible affect of an enormous platform  ten km off Dor Beach, “ he mentioned.

“But I’m most fearful concerning the catastrophic affect threat.”

In a stinging 73-page report on the Leviathan venture, Steiner says that Noble’s paperwork fail to offer a “clear plan for stopping effectively blowouts [the uncontrolled release of gas in cases where pressure control systems fail] or seabed pipeline failure… pipeline leak detection, personnel coaching… near-casualty reporting and investigation, threat evaluation, subcontractor administration, and gear upkeep and surveillance.”

The firm’s info, he fees, is “poorly built-in, redundant, [and] usually inconsistent,” with “vital errors… vital gaps in important info, and infrequently … imprecise and common assertions missing element” – all elements which make it arduous for the general public to know the venture and consider potential dangers.

The paperwork “understate the dangers and impacts of the Leviathan venture” and “overstate response capabilities.”

Noble Energy’s reliance on mechanical strategies and chemical substances used to disperse oil slicks is mistaken, he fees, as a result of they’re “not identified to be efficient in most condensate launch situations.”

That view was echoed by Alex Hunt, a technical supervisor on the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation in London, which assists with oil spills world wide.

Following January’s disastrous collision of an Iranian condensate-carrying tanker with a Chinese cargo ship off Shanghai, Hunt instructed The Atlantic, “Condensate, as you may count on, is extremely flammable ….There is the traditional picture of a spill at sea—black oil floating on the water, folks making an attempt to make use of booms and skimmers or to make use of dispersants. In a case like this, a product like this, these methods wouldn’t be really helpful. It’s flammable so that you wouldn’t wish to include it, or use a skimmer to recuperate it, as a result of then you’re risking a fireplace.”

In this picture comprised of video run by China’s CCTV, a rescue ship sprays water to place out a blaze on the Panama-registered tanker “Sanchi” after a collision with a Hong Kong-registered freighter off China’s jap coast, January 8, 2017. (CCTV through AP Video)

Steiner went on to say that following the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe within the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, when an oil drilling rig ignited and exploded, kick-starting the largest marine oil spill catastrophe in historical past, it’s unacceptable that Leviathan’s paperwork “fail to account for the numerous methods wherein a fancy system reminiscent of a deep water fuel venture can fail…. catastrophic dangers haven’t been adequately assessed.”

He mentioned, “Natural fuel (99% methane) is understood to be poisonous to marine organisms, significantly at hotter water temperatures…discovered off the coast of Israel. The lack of detailed analysis of a big fuel launch is a major hole within the environmental evaluation of the venture” which suggests “a troubling sense of complacency about this very actual threat.”

Steiner found {that a} Leviathan effectively had certainly blown out earlier than reaching any fuel reserves throughout an experimental drill by Noble Energy in May 2011, with the consequence that briny water spilled out into the ocean for 16 months till the effectively was plugged. The affect on the ocean mattress reportedly lasted for a minimum of 5 years.

The sluggish response time “calls into query the veracity of most of the effectively management assertions made within the paperwork,” Steiner mentioned.

Noble’s Energy’s EIA for one of many blocks within the Tamar Field Development Project famous that, “Because the Application Area is greater than ten km from the Israeli coast, onshore air high quality is just not reviewed on this report,” indicating that for a venture inside 10 km of the shore, it must be.

Yet for the Leviathan venture, it didn’t put together a complete well being evaluation as a result of Israeli EIA legislation doesn’t explicitly require it.

Amy Rosenstein, Tel Aviv, August 1, 2018. (Sue Surkes)

Instead, in keeping with Amy Rosenstein, who was delivered to Israel by the campaigners to handle the press convention alongside Steiner, it complied with the “minimal necessities” of the Environmental Protection Ministry and produced an EIA in 2016 that claimed “with little supporting proof supplied, that potential impacts to the well being and security of affected communities have been assessed and no vital impacts have been recognized.”

It is essential, Rosenstein claimed, to have an in depth well being evaluation carried out to fulfill worldwide requirements in developed international locations, and since the platform would be the closest of all of the oil and fuel services to Israel’s shore.

Warning that emissions into the water might probably contaminate desalination vegetation and fish, Rosenstein writes, “Based on the file of Noble Energy on the current Tamar platform…. the place emissions have been considerably higher (by greater than an order of magnitude) than predicted, and at its fuel platforms world wide, the place equally excessive emissions, in addition to accidents, have been recorded, it’s vitally essential to foretell and perceive the impacts of the proposed platform on the well being of individuals residing on the shore.”

In April 2015, Noble Energy, Inc. agreed a $73 million settlement with the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice, and the State of Colorado over “points with vapor management techniques” at Noble’s condensate storage tank batteries in Colorado.

Haifa court docket battle

For Leviathan, Noble Energy is planning a backup condensate storage tank on the Hagit energy plant, east of Route 70 between the northern cities of Zichron Yaakov and Yokneam.

Racing in opposition to the clock, Home Guardians – which is planning a mass protest in Tel Aviv on September 1 — requested the Haifa District Court on Tuesday to briefly delay the award of a allow to Noble Energy to function a condensate pipe on land that can join the platform to the nationwide oil pipeline that takes crude oil to the Haifa Refineries.

Oil refineries towers within the northern port metropolis of Haifa on October 16, 2006. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Lawyers for the group instructed the court docket that the federal government authorized the allow on Monday regardless of the court docket’s ruling in May conditioning such a allow on Noble Energy offering an emergency plan for a condensate leak that needed to be authorized by the environmental safety ministry.

Those situations, the legal professionals mentioned, had not been met.

Who’s in cost?

Zalul, a veteran NGO devoted to defending the marine atmosphere, has been specializing in the potential results of Israel’s fuel fields since 2012.

It lamented what it says is the extreme authority granted to the Energy Ministry on the expense of the environmental safety ministry and the issue of acquiring info from the previous.

One of the important thing conclusions within the US and Europe following the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe has been to make sure a whole separation between authorities departments working to advance oil and fuel extraction and people charged with defending the atmosphere, the group mentioned.

“Since January 2018, the power and environmental safety ministries have refused to offer solutions to each the Local Authorities Association and a residents’ NGO about emergency planning for each the Tamar and Leviathan fuel fields. In May, the environmental safety ministry wrote that the power ministry didn’t want it to be made obtainable to the general public,” it famous.

The Times of Israel tried to establish who’s supervising the exercise of presidency on this subject.

A evaluation of Knesset committee debates reveals that since 2014, no discussions regarding pure fuel have taken place throughout the inside and environmental safety committee.

A committee spokesperson mentioned that issues linked to power [but not the potential environmental implications of energy initiatives] are overseen by the financial affairs committee which , in keeping with the protocols, has mentioned pure fuel pretty incessantly.

The inside and environmental safety committee, the spokesperson continued, is likely one of the most overloaded within the Knesset. In addition to atmosphere, it’s liable for inner safety, inside ministry issues (together with all native authorities and planning and constructing points) and spiritual providers.

MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), chairman of the Interior Affairs Committee on the Knesset, on January 29, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

It is the committee chairman, presently the Likud’s Yoav Kisch, who decides which topics to debate.

Asked what occurred if fears are raised about an environmental subject, the spokesperson mentioned, “We’ll usually simply ask for a report from an NGO or from the Environmental Protection Ministry.”

Noble: No going again

The Energy Ministry, in the meantime, stays upbeat concerning the near-shore Leviathan processing platform.

A spokesman mentioned it might create air pollution neither on the seaside nor within the sea.

The platform will include “superior expertise” for environmental safety, together with “a closed system” for the dealing with of pure fuel with “superior technique of monitoring, supervision and management to stop any deviations from environmental situations within the air and sea, as outlined by the environmental safety ministry,” mentioned the spokesman.

The Hadera energy station, August 28, 2004. (Flash90)

Furthermore, the operation of Leviathan will allow the closure of 4 coal energy producing models in close by coastal Hadera, considerably decreasing air air pollution in Israel total, the spokesman mentioned.

Bini Zomer, Noble Energy’s VP for Regional Affairs, mentioned, “This is an irreversible $Four billion venture that’s 60% full. The legs of the platform can be set in January. The pipelines have been laid from the sector to the platform and from the platform to the shore. There isn’t any going again on this and it’s a disgrace some folks factor that is nonetheless a risk.”

He defined, “We’ll have a most of round 2,000 barrels-worth of condensate on the platform at anyone time.

“If you’ve an FPSO removed from the shore, you’ll be storing condensate within the hull and there can be tons of of hundreds of barrels in order that the affect of a spill could possibly be far higher and take longer to achieve to wash up.

CEO of Noble Energy, Israel, Binyamin (Bini) Zomer seen on the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on February 3, 2016, (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“If you’ve a pipeline [from the wells to the platform and from the platform to the shore] it’s the most secure method to transport something. They’re designed for 50 years. There’s no motion. They are seamlessly welded,” he went on. “But with an FPSO, it’s important to transport the condensate by ship.”

Zomer added, “We are required to have an oil spill response plan — condensate is a lighter model of oil — and we’ve got a strict routine, which we prepare for.”

Waste water, in the meantime, could be flushed again into the ocean near the platform however solely after it had been handled to fulfill environmental safety ministry laws.

Regarding transparency, mentioned Nobel’s Zomer, “All the knowledge is accessible on the Ministry of Environmental Protection web site. This might be one of the clear infrastructure initiatives within the historical past of Israel.”

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