Photo Credit: Marc Israel Sellem / POOL
Israel's Leviathan gas field gas processing rig near the Israeli city of Caesarea. January 31, 2019

Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) on Monday announced that the Leviathan gas field operator Noble Energy did not meet the necessary criteria for operational testing and ordered to postpone the procedure to a later date.

The MEP has yet to approve Noble Energy’s plan for the operational test, particularly the analytical tools used for the sampling and monitoring of pollutants that are emitted during operations.

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Noble Energy was ordered to give at least two days’ notice before it sets a new date for the testing, which would include the first flow of gas from the rig.

The announcement came after nearby residents threatened to abandon their homes in protest of the potential air pollution that could be caused by the gas rig’s operations.

Last week, during a court hearing on petitions by environmental organizations and local councils, Nobel Energy’s attorneys claimed that postponing the operation could be detrimental to Israel both economically and diplomatically.

The economic damage of a three-day delay in operations is estimated by Noble Energy to be approximately NIS 60 million. They also warned it would likely harm the diplomatic relations between Israel and Jordan since a significant portion of the gas is expected to be exported to the Hashemite Kingdom.

Despite postponing the tests, the MEP said in a statement that the rig’s operations are not expected to be harmful to the environment after their conditions are met.

“The MEP has examined the company’s plans for initial operations, and has implemented a contaminant dispersion model in various synoptic situations… The most severe dispersion scenarios indicated that benzene emissions from the rig are not expected to increase benzene concentrations in the coastal area significantly. The tests have shown that no risk is expected for residents of the coastal communities at all stages of operations, including at the time of the initial tests,” they said.

Noble Energy said that the current setback would likely be short, and operational testing will commence in the coming days.

“After examining the MEP’s announcement, we believe that operations at Leviathan will begin in the coming days. The Leviathan rig meets the most stringent environmental protection conditions, as the MEP and the other authorities have determined. All officials explicitly stated that there was no danger from the operation of the rig, and that has not changed,” they said.

“The natural gas will dramatically reduce air pollution, increase state revenue and make it an energy superpower. We waited many years for gas from Leviathan. We will wait a few more days,” the company added.

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