“The ministry considers the violations to be serious and emphasizes that it will not allow the operation of facilities at sea without full transparency.”

By TZVI JOFFRE   NOVEMBER 16, 2020 13:32

The Leviathan gas platform pictured in the Mediterranean Sea. (photo credit: ALBATROSS)
The Leviathan gas platform pictured in the Mediterranean Sea. (photo credit: ALBATROSS)

The Environmental Protection Ministry on Sunday fined Noble Energy over NIS 3.7 million after the company violated the terms of its emissions permit for the Leviathan natural gas rig off the coast of northern Israel.

Within months of the rig beginning to operate last December, the Environmental Protection Ministry found that Noble Energy – recently purchased by Chevron – had violated a number of the conditions of the emissions permit, including reporting obligations to inspectors for the protection of the marine environment.

“The ministry considers the violations to be serious, and emphasizes that it will not allow the operation of facilities at sea without full transparency, or while showing non-compliance with the conditions of the emissions permit to the sea in particular and the permits, in general,” the ministry said in a press release.

The fine was set at NIS 3,783,276.The Zalul Environmental Association welcomed the decision, but warned that Israel is carrying out gas and oil drilling without adequate supervision and enforcement and without protective laws.

“That is why this step of the Environmental Protection [Ministry] is important now. Only with enforcement, deterrence and punishment will we achieve higher environmental protection,” Zalul said.In response, Chevron said that it “has received communication from Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and will respond after a thorough review. We are committed to complying with all the laws and regulations of the State of Israel including all permits granted by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.”

Located 10 km. off Israel’s shore, the Leviathan platform is connected through a 120-km.-long pipeline to the Leviathan reservoir, one of the largest natural-gas fields discovered worldwide in the last decade and thought to contain up to 605 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas, equivalent to 65 years of domestic consumption.

The ministry informed Noble Energy that it would commence enforcement proceedings in May, stating that although the permit was granted in November 2019 and commercial operations began in January, they had only begun receiving continuous emissions data in May.

“The Ministry of Environmental Protection takes these violations seriously; it notes that they harm the ministry’s ability to efficiently oversee pollutant emissions from Leviathan, and thus to have a full picture in real-time of the rig’s impact on the environment,” said the ministry in a statement.

The ministry also cited numerous faults at the platform since it commenced operations, including overnight Saturday, but emphasized that no incident has resulted in abnormal pollution concentrations that would pose a danger to the public.Gas production was halted a number of times in the past year. A security flare was also activated several times, creating large flashes and booms that raised concerns among local residents about the rig’s safety, despite assurances by Noble Energy that it was safe and monitored by the Environmental Protection Ministry.

Eytan Halon contributed to this report.