Monitoring Pollution

SAVE OUR AIR A CITIZEN-FUNDED INITIATIVE

Air pollution is a leading problem in Israel, annually claiming over 2,500 lives and costing an estimated NIS 31 billion

Current efforts to monitor Israel’s air quality are ineffective. Monitoring stations are sparsely dispersed, limited in the range of pollutants monitored, shut down frequently, and at times depend on reports provided by the polluters.

IHG is launching a citizen-funded air pollution monitoring system that will complement the systems operated by the Ministry of Environment, local municipalities, and polluters. Our system will focus on the oil and gas industries and include a range of currently excluded criteria. Our goal is to provide regulators with the critical, legally admissible data needed to enforce Israel’s Clean Air Law. Equally essential, we will provide Israel’s citizens with reliable, real-time data on the air they are breathing.

Monitoring Pollution

problems and solution

Current Monitoring

  • Cost: NIS 400,000 per station
  • Few stations
  • Frequent shutdowns (calibration, maintenance, breakdowns)
  • Limited # of pollutants
  • Performed by Environment Ministry, municipalities, polluters

Planned IHG Independent Monitoring

  • Cost: NIS 40,000 per station
  • Many stations (due to cheaper cost per station)
  • Continuous sampling
  • Wide range of pollutants, including 40 VOCs
  • Citizen-funded. Performed by advanced labs

Chronic exposure to extreme air pollution correlates with respiratory and heart disease, strokes, certain cancers, diabetes, and congenital defects.

A 2020 report by Israel’s Environmental Protection and Health ministries showed that Israelis are continually exposed to extreme air pollution levels that significantly exceed the target values defined by the Clean Air Law. The report evaluated exposure to seven key air pollutants, the most dangerous being particulate matter smaller than 10 and 2.5 microns. (For perspective, an average human hair follicle is 70 microns wide.) These microscopic particles can penetrate deeply into the bloodstream, pulmonary tissues, and in some cases, even the brain. 

Industrial processes and transportation related to the burning of fossil fuels account for most of Israel’s air pollution. However, the region’s desert climate, seasonal easterly winds, and dust storms exacerbate this problem. Climate change is also causing more frequent and severe dust storms, with health risks for vulnerable populations.

Current Monitoring – Key Disadvantages

Communities located downwind of fossil fuel processing and storage facilities are at risk of significant exposure to volatile organic compounds and other pollutants. Israel’s petrochemical operations include refineries in Haifa and Ashdod, seven gas-fueled power plants (with more planned), and the Leviathan, Tamar, and Karish-Tanin offshore gas rigs.

Existing air monitoring stations are operated by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, local municipalities, and polluters. The stations are sparsely deployed, fail to measure critical pollutants, and shut down frequently due to calibration and maintenance requirements. These shortcomings make it exceedingly difficult to enforce Israel’s Clean Air Law.

In addition to pollutants, monitoring stations must also measure wind direction (WD) and speed (WS) to identify pollution sources and locations accurately. Many stations fail to do so. 

Delving into specifics…

The Problem

  • Few monitoring stations: Monitoring stations throughout the Carmel region neighboring the offshore Leviathan gas rig are dispersed at an average distance of 8 km (5 miles). This is mainly due to the steep cost of each station, which stands at NIS 400,000 (roughly $123,000) excluding operational expenses. The sparse deployment impedes detection and enforcement.
  • Limited pollutant monitoring: Current stations monitor a range of pollutants occurring in crude and natural gas, such as ozone, NOx, SOx, PM2.5, and BTEX (all compounds occurring in crude oil and natural gas). However, the stations only monitor three types of volatile organic compounds. They also fail to monitor butadiene and other highly toxic and carcinogenic compounds emitted from oil and gas production and storage facilities.
  • Impeded enforcement: Existing stations use gas chromatography (GC) to assess the levels of volatile organic compounds. GC requires both automatic and manual periodic calibration to remain accurate. This requires (often unavailable) high-level experts on-site and increases operational costs and shutdowns.
  • Inaccurate reporting by polluters: In some cases, the Environment Ministry and local municipalities depend on reports provided by the polluters. There have been reporting inaccuracies, including during the Leviathan rig test run.
January 1st, 2020. Optical gas imaging reveals that significant emissions continue after the official test run, despite the operator’s assertion that they had completed the venting. The venting continued the following day.

The Proposed Solution

Our scientific team collaborated with world-renowned experts, including the leading environmental and health engineering company, Ramboll, to bypass current difficulties. 

The new infrastructure will use reliable sensors 1/10 the cost of current monitoring stations, enabling broader deployment and more flexible and accurate monitoring. The sensors will focus on volatile organic compounds emitted from fossil fuel use and production. They will offer continuous monitoring of total organic compounds (TOC). Violations of permitted levels will trigger automatic tube sampling of the air for 24 hours. The tubes will then be assessed by certified laboratories equipped with far more accurate instrumentation than the field stations. The number of pollutants monitored will also expand considerably to include 40 different volatile organic compounds. During its first phases, the new system will not monitor certain key pollutants, such as BTEX, Ozone, SOx, NOx, and fine particulate matter, due to the significantly higher costs involved. We hope to address this in the future. 

We will initially deploy the new system in population centers near the Leviathan rig (6 miles offshore) and in the pollution-hit cities of Haifa and Ashdod/Ashkelon. We plan to expand our system to other pollution hotspots in the future. 

Summary

Today, the regulator has limited ability to effectively monitor Israel’s air quality, particularly volatile organic compounds. IHG’s independent air pollution monitoring will provide Israel’s citizens with reliable, real-time air quality data. In parallel, our system will give regulators critical, legally admissible data needed to enforce Israel’s Clean Air Law and penalize polluters.

The proposed system will be owned by and accessible to all citizens, operating impartially to monitor air quality at any given moment. This will solve the current situation in which Israel’s factories, powerplants, and refineries monitor themselves. 

Polluters will ultimately realize that reducing pollution saves money.  Yet this understanding – critical to Israel’s public health and environment – will only be possible if we can unequivocally identify and penalize polluters.

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Please help transition Israel to life-saving clean energy

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Please help transition Israel to life-saving clean energy

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