Environmental and Health Concerns

When everything goes “right” (during routine operations)…

Gas rigs are petrochemical plants. While their pollution levels depend on the amount of crude gas processed, gas composition and processing methods, the production generally emits extremely high levels of benzene and other carcinogens to the air, and heavy metals including mercury, cadmium, and lead to sea.

Gas processing also yields high concentrations of condensate – a highly volatile and carcinogenic by-product. The Leviathan and Tamar rigs produce thousands of barrels of condensate daily.

And when things go wrong…

Malfunction at any location in Israel’s energy infrastructure, including spontaneous structural failure, earthquakes, war and acts of terror, can have dire consequences:

  • Spills and burning of toxic materials resulting in mass destruction of ecosystems
  • Acute danger to adjacent civilian populations
  • Shutdown of desalination plants
  • Long-term contamination and beach closures

Israel’s gas-processing platforms, supporting pipelines and on-land storage facilities are located close to shore and within populated regions nationwide. Haifa’s widely protested oil and gas refinery has impacted the health of the city’s residents for years. The Tamar platform

Malfunction at any location in Israel’s energy infrastructure, including spontaneous structural failure, earthquakes, war and acts of terror, can have dire consequences:

  • Spills and burning of toxic materials resulting in mass destruction of ecosystems
  • Acute danger to adjacent civilian populations
  • Shutdown of desalination plants
  • Long-term contamination and beach closures

Israel’s gas-processing platforms, supporting pipelines and on-land storage facilities are located close to shore and within populated regions nationwide. Haifa’s widely protested oil and gas refinery has impacted the health of the city’s residents for years. The Tamar platform is 14 miles from the southern city of Ashkelon, while Leviathan is a mere six miles off Israel’s northern shore. This is also the case for the proposed Persian Gulf petroleum initiative, where the receiving station would be inside the key tourist city of Eilat, adjacent to its Coral Reef Nature Reserve.

is 14 miles from the southern city of Ashkelon, while Leviathan is a mere six miles off Israel’s northern shore. This is also the case for the proposed Persian Gulf petroleum initiative, where the receiving station would be inside the key tourist city of Eilat, adjacent to its Coral Reef Nature Reserve.

Given Israel’s tiny dimensions – it is roughly 448 times smaller than the U.S and 25 times smaller than France – petrochemical malfunctions can widely impact Israel’s public and environment.  For perspective, Deepwater Horizon, which contaminated 1,300 miles of shoreline, was 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

Threat to water sources

The Leviathan rig is only nine miles from a desalination plant providing the annual water needs of over one million (of Israel’s nearly 9 million residents). Experts warn that a largescale spill could shut down this plant; a threat of particular concern given regional aridity. Processed water (from the Mediterranean Sea and other sources) currently supplies most of Israel’s home and industrial water usage.

Experts are also concerned that even a small-scale spill of condensate, the highly carcinogenic by-product created during crude gas processing, could shutdown key water systems. The Leviathan rig produces thousands of barrels of condensate daily that are piped over vital groundwater reserves and through population centers to the city of Haifa before export. The pipes pose contamination risks to air, soil, and water. 

The Leviathan rig permit also allows for an adjacent tanker that could contain up to 100,000 barrels of condensate, greatly increasing spill risks from routine operations, malfunctions or acts of violence.

“Even a small-scale condensate spill, of a few meters-cubed, can pollute millions of meter-cubes of water… shutting down the system.” - Yossi Bar, Hydrologist

Air Pollution

According to the OECD, Israel’s air pollution levels are already well above the WHO recommended limits, causing nearly 2,500 premature deaths and exceeding $7 billion in health-related costs annually.

Studies show significantly higher cancer rates near Haifa’s petrochemical facilities, and experts warn [link to Gerber in Experts section] that the nearshore Leviathan rig may expand these pollution hotspots to the Carmel region.

Similar to the Tamar Rig, where the 2016 emissions were thirty times the levels predicted by Noble Energy, the company’s first Leviathan rig emissions request was rejected after an investigation showed that the platform would feature six times the amount of potentially polluting equipment than reported. Moreover, a later report published in the prestigious Environmental Impact Assessment Review determined that Noble Energy “grossly underestimated” the quantity of polluting air emissions and relied on “overly simplistic” models.

In December 2020, the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP) fined Chevron-Noble Energy over NIS 3.2 million (around $983,000) for air pollution emissions from the Leviathan platform reaching 120 – 180 percent the permitted amount.

The ministry also accused Noble of several violations relating to breakdowns necessitating the operation of the platform’s emergency flare stack. Over 30 breakdowns occurred at the platform in less than a year, including one that posed ‘mortal danger’ according to a report by British engineering firm RPS.

Experts are also highly concerned that the government’s plans to transport crude oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe through Eilat and Ashkelon could impact air pollution and potentially decimate Israel’s renowned coral reef, the world’s only reef largely spared by climate change. (See letter signed by over 200 local and international scientists).

Current data indicating a correlation between air pollution and increased susceptibility to Covid-19 infection, mortality and transmission add to the urgency of regulating emissions from Israel’s energy sector.

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World renown experts: Nearshore gas processing platforms are a huge danger to Israel

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