Israeli court halts Leviathan test run as environmentalists protest

Noble Energy had earlier announced that Israel’s largest offshore natural gas field would start production by the end of the year.

By World Israel News Staff 

The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday issued a temporary injunction preventing Noble Energy Inc. from conducting trial operations on the Leviathan platform, Israel’s largest offshore natural gas field, over environmental and health concerns surrounding “gas emissions.”

“The dramatic ruling in effect freezes the emission permit granted to Noble Energy by the Ministry of Environmental Protection,” reports Israeli business news outlet Globes.

The court was responding to a petition initiated by the Israel-based Zalul Environmental Association and six local councils located near the offshore platform.

The court is scheduled to discuss the matter on Sunday.

The petitioners argue 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.

Noble had earlier announced that it planned to start production at Leviathan by the end of the year.

Texas-based Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Drilling have signed multi-billion dollar export deals with Egypt and Jordan, and cancellation would have diplomatic ramifications in the relationships between Israel and the two Arab states with which it has a peace treaty.

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

Environmental activists and various local authorities 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.

Noble Energy share prices dropped on Tuesday following the report that the Leviathan gas field operations would be stopped at least temporarily.