Israel was set to launch its biggest offshore natural gas facility, Leviathan, on December 31st, but was delayed.
The reason was that the government deemed it that Noble Energy, the company running the project hadn’t met all necessary criteria.
On December 23rd, the Environmental Protection Ministry ordered the Noble Energy firm to postpone a planned test of its gas rig off Israel’s northern coast.
The Leviathan extraction platform had been set to perform an initial test of its systems early on December 24th.
“The ministry is aware of the discomfort caused to residents of the area by this situation, but it maintains that the conditions that have been put in place in order to oversee the running [of the facility] will be met in full for the good of the public and the environment,” the Environmental Protection Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said the company had not met the criteria and conditions needed to carry out the test, without specifying what those requirements were.
Noble Energy had been instructed to carry out the necessary procedures and then again request permission from the ministry to perform the test. Once approved, the firm would choose a new day to carry out the test, giving residents of the surrounding area at least two days’ notice.
The company said that the ministry had introduced new steps ahead of the test.
“Noble Energy is sure to comply with all permits and approvals required of it. The Environmental Protection Ministry is asking to perform an additional validation of the analysis machinery, beyond the existing validation,” the firm said.
The Ministry itself said that it didn’t consider the test of the gas rig posed a threat, to the nearby coastal communities and the harmful chemicals being released were not expected to be at sufficiently high levels to negatively impact the health of residents.
“The Environmental Protection Ministry clarifies that there are no special instructions in terms of stopping activities or changing daily behavior for residents of the area, including during the pipe-flushing on the gas rig,” the ministry said.
In October, a scientific journal published an academic study that found that environmental impact assessments carried out by Noble Energy for the Leviathan platform “grossly” underestimated the quantity of polluting emissions, contained “a series of flaws,” relied on “overly simplistic” models and should be redone more professionally.
The findings were rejected by Noble Energy, which said that it was installing technology on the platform that would keep emissions close to zero.
The Leviathan gas rig is located in the Mediterranean Sea 125 kilometers (77 miles) west of Haifa, and the Leviathan field is estimated to hold 22 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, and a potential half a million barrels of oil, according to estimates provided by the partners in the field.
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