Dozens of residents from the town of Zichron Yaakov, 35 kilometers south of Haifa, demonstrated in Jerusalem on Monday, October 23, against plans to install natural gas rigs some ten kilometers offshore from their vicinity.
Around thirty cars packed with protesters ascended in a snake-like convoy from Latrun junction to the Knesset in Jerusalem, where a police escort waved them past security. MK Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List) addressed the crowd.
Emblazoned on the cars were signs demonstrating opposition to Noble Energy’s planned 120 meter-high gas treatment platforms being installed right offshore, 32 gas platforms are being proposed, and they are to stretch from Haifa to Netanya.
Many of the protesters also object to an onshore storage and processing plant meant for the toxic condensate, a natural gas byproduct, at the Hagit power station and with a pipeline running through the Dor beach. They fear a possible malfunction and argue that, internationally, comparable natural gas facilities are located much further away from the shoreline.
“We are protesting the damage to the environment, the amount of poisonous materials that may be released through the air,” said protest organizer Yehuda Bruner, adding that he wanted the government to just pipe in the dry gas without the condensate. “It’s a horror for the environment, for people. However, gas condensate is also a goldmine to oil refinery industry. There are some people that are going to make billions of shekels from the gas condensate and those people know their way very well through politics,” said Bruner.
The group of protesters demands that the dry gas be delivered from a floating barge with FPSO — floating, processing, storing, offloading technology, in a platform located deep sea next to the Leviathan well, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) offshore. It is unclear why Noble Energy has not accepted the FPSO proposal, and the company declined to comment. A person affiliated with the natural gas industry said that the protesters should be directing their ire not at Noble Energy but at the government, which granted the permits and licensing for the offshore rigs.
The Leviathan natural gas reservoir has yet to be developed, and Noble Energy expects to connect the site by 2019. Israel’s only operating gas field, Tamar, sits 80 kilometers (50 miles) in the sea, and its barge is located 24 kilometers from Ashkelon. Bruner claimed that since the Tamar rig opened in 2016, it has produced more pollution than the entire petrochemical industry and the electric industry together in Israel. He also alleged that the Tamar rig is half the size of the planned Leviathan rig.
Noble Energy is a Texas-based petroleum and natural gas firm, the company is headquartered in Houston, and has a market valuation of $13.5 billion.