04/11/2011 10:51

Experts applaud switch from oil to gas, but say it came too late.

Israel Natural Gas Lines will begin pumping natural gas into the Haifa Bay area on Monday, which will soon enable Oil Refineries Ltd., and industrial factories in the region, to be powered primarily by natural gas, creating a cleaner local environment, the company announced.

The gas will flow through a 67-kilometer pipeline that joins a 420-km. natural-gas network around the country, with two-thirds of the gas coming from the Mari-B fields and onethird coming from Egyptian sources, Israel Natural Gas Lines CEO Shmuel Tordjman said Sunday.

Israel Natural Gas Lines CEO is a government-funded company that was established in 2003.

While the gas flow will begin Monday, the public will not reap the benefits immediately because the initial process of filling up the pipe with gas, from the Hagit power station to the refineries, will take about one week, Tordjman said. Then it will require one to two more weeks of system checks, he said.

“Our plan is to supply gas to the refineries, and by the end of April they will get gas,” Tordjman said. “We hope that at the end of this month we will be finished with this process.”

Filling up the pipeline takes a week because the gas flows at a pressure of 80 bars and must be depressurized at the plant once it arrives, an Israel Natural Gas Lines spokesman said.

Once the gas is ready for use, the supply will increase gradually, rather than delivering the maximum capacity on the first day, Tordjman said. Within a couple of weeks the refineries will be receiving 1 million to 1.5 million cubic meters of gas daily, he said.

“It’s tremendous,” said Dr.

Brenda Shaffer, an expert on energy policy and management at the University of Haifa. “Not only will the measurements of pollution be different, people will feel a difference in the city.”

“It’s very exciting; it’s very important,” she said. “These kinds of benefits that we’re going to see should illustrate why it’s important to expand the consumption of natural gas in Israel.”

Shaffer said it was unfortunate that the process took so long.

“It’s two years too late,” said Dr. Ofira Ayalon, an environmental- policy researcher at the Technion’s Samuel Neaman Institute and a senior lecturer for the Natural Resource and Environmental Research Center at Haifa University’s Graduate School of Management.

A public hearing in 2007 would have required the oil refineries “to install the best available technologies to reduce air pollution,” she said. But because the region was supposed to receive natural gas in 2009, and the expenses of such technologies were very high, those installations never occurred, she said.

Tordjman said the process had been delayed because of the Druse community’s protests over the lines. “But once it was resolved we began our work in May 2010” and completed it at the end of January, he said.

Tordjman said the public would enjoy the financial benefits of replacing oil with cheaper natural gas, and the air will quickly become more breathable as pollutants dissipate.

“There will be a very big improvement in terms of air quality in the Haifa Bay area – and also an improvement in the quality of life of the people,” he said.

A switch to natural gas would bring a 100 percent reduction in the presence of metals in the area’s atmosphere, a 75% reduction in sulfur dioxide, a 50% reduction in particulate matters and a 10% reduction in nitrogen oxide, according to data published by Ayalon in a 2008 Neaman Institute study.

“We know that natural gas will improve air quality in Haifa: that’s a fact,” Ayalon said.