By Avi Bar-Eli
The state is worried that the pressure at which the partners intend to supply natural gas from the offshore Tamar field will be too high for safety.

The partners in the Tamar drilling site, which is some 90 meters offshore, and the state are facing off over the issue. The present plans have the gas coming in from Tamar to the shore at 400 to 500 bar compared to the only 80-100 bar of pressure for the gas now provided by Tethys Sea or EMG.

A bar is a unit of pressure slightly greater than regular atmospheric pressure. The onshore gas distribution network operates at a pressure of 70 bar.

The drilling site is operated by U.S. firm Noble Energy, and the rights to the natural gas in the Tamar offshore field are owned by a consortium of Noble, Delek Drilling, Isramco, Avner Oil and Gas Exploration and Dor Gas Exploration.

The system for pumping the gas ashore also includes plans for higher pressures in the future when gas supplies diminish and higher pressures are required.

National Infrastructures Ministry experts have expressed worries in recent weeks that the system, as planned by the corporate partners, will deliver the natural gas to the onshore terminal located on the Mediterranean coast near Dor, south of Haifa at excessively high pressure. The high pressure could lead to environmental disaster in the event of fire or other emergency.

Ministry officials and experts from the state company responsible for transporting the gas have raised the issue of the gas pressure with representatives of the drilling partnership in closed meetings recently.

The two sides do not however agree as to the danger of transporting the gas at such high pressures, and have therefore not been able to reach an agreement on lowering the pressure.

There are a number of technical solutions as to how to lower the pressure, but they would increase the cost of production, the partners argue. Delivering the gas at high pressure would allow the providers much more flexibility in providing gas in different volumes at different times (so-called swing production), and would obviate the need to add compressors in the future.

Israel is not the only place with such problems, and no good solution has yet been found for natural gas production far from shore, without some form of expensive treatment. Both of the present gas supplies used by Israel, the Mary B site off Ashkelon, and the Egyptian gas bought from EMG, have their pressure issues dealt with by the suppliers before reaching Israeli shores.

The issue of the Tamar gas has become particularly difficult in light of the strenuous objection of residents living near the planned gas facility close to Kibbutz Ma’ayan Zvi near Zichron Yaakov. The station is planned to be built on a 200-dunam (50-acre) plot about a kilometer from the shore.

The Tamar field is estimated to contain 207 billion cubic meters of gas.

A spokesperson for the National Infrastructures Ministry said: “The Gas Authority will approve transfering the gas according to international standards and regulations.”

The Tamar partnership said they were in “close contact with the Gas Authority and are acting exactly according to the authority’s requirements.”