At last moment, Israel pulls plug on Leviathan natural gas test run

Noble Energy said in a statement that is was “very surprised and we regret hearing the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s decision.”

By World Israel News Staff 

After complaints by environmental activists and local authority leaders briefly stopped final trial operations last week on the Leviathan platform, Israel’s largest offshore natural gas field, the state stepped in on Monday night to stop the launch of operations.

After issuing a temporary injunction against the trial run on December 17, the Jerusalem District Court gave the go-ahead to Texas-based Noble Energy to proceed two days later.

However, Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection announced that “Leviathan gas field operator Noble Energy Inc. had not yet met the stringent conditions that had been set for starting flushing activities today at the gas reservoir’s platform and consequently the commencement of operations was being postponed,” reported Israeli business news outlet Globes on Tuesday.

Opponents of the Leviathan project had previously taken their case unsuccessfully to the Israeli Supreme Court to at least move the operation farther out to sea. The production platform was constructed 10 kilometers (six miles) off of the Israeli shoreline.

“Leviathan – the largest energy project in the history of the State of Israel – is reaching final stages of completion and is on track to deliver commercial gas sales to the Israeli domestic market and regional markets in December 2019,” states Noble Energy on its website.

However, “a sampling and monitoring program during operations has not been approved by the [Environmental Protection] ministry, as they are not satisfied with the calibration and quality control reports submitted pertaining to the analysis instruments on the rig for the inspection of gas composition,” reports The Jerusalem Post.

The petitioners to the Jerusalem District Court had argued that the imminent third stage of a test run at the gas field – which includes opening the wells and filling the sub-sea pipeline with natural gas – would emit an estimated 50 tons of polluting materials during an eight hour period, an amount that is normally permissible only over the course of at least 16 months and in other cases only in a duration of up to two-and-a-half years.

However, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the petitioners had not proven their assertions.

Noble Energy said in a statement that it was “very surprised and we regret hearing the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s decision.”

The company insisted that it has been “scrupulous in strictly complying with all the various permits and approvals that have been issued to it and has received approvals of the different courts.”

The statement said that “Noble is working to convey the data” to the ministry regarding “additional validation of the analysis equipment above and beyond the existing validation,” adding that the “Leviathan partners are excited, ready and on alert ahead of natural gas production and transforming Israel into an energy power.”

Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Drilling have signed multi-billion dollar export deals with Egypt and Jordan, giving diplomatic as well as economic significance to the project.

Noble representatives say that the cost of delaying the project will amount to 5 million shekels daily, Israel Hayom reported.

The paper reported on Tuesday that the state had lost 9 billion dollars due to development delays in the last 10 years since the offshore gas reserves were discovered.