Israeli Natural Gas Rig Again Emits Concentrated Pollutants as Part of Test Run

Monitoring devices find no abnormal levels as rig, located near Haifa, emits gases and hydrocarbons ■ Previous test saw some residents temporarily evacuate homes

Protest in Herzliya against operation of the Leviathan gas rig on January 6, 2020.
Daniel Bar-On

The Leviathan natural gas rig, near Haifa, emitted Monday a concentrated amount of pollutants as part of a test-run operation by Noble Energy. 

This procedure began early Monday morning and, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry, the rig emitted a mixture of gases, including nitrogen. By midday the rig also emitted hyrdocarbons, including the carcinogenic compound benzene. Monitoring devices had not measured any abnormal levels as of Monday afternoon.

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The Environmental Protection Ministry announced that the southeasterly wind that blew along the coast in the morning carried these pollutants from the rig to the northwest, over the sea. Benzene levels that were measured until 3 P.M. were low, ranging from 0.32 to 0.96 microgram per cubic meter. However, since no wind was blowing from the rig toward the coast, the measured levels were not related to the testing of the gas rig. These values were within the range of those measured in the control period, in November.

The first trial run at the rig last week caused alarm among residents of the area, causing some of them to leave their homes for at least the duration of the startup phase. After tests were conducted, the Hof HaCarmel Regional Council announced that there were no deviations from the normal range of pollutants, and there was no flight of residents during Monday’s tests. Protests against the second test were restricted to a small demonstration by an environmental group in front of Noble Energy’s offices in Herzliya.

The Environmental Protection Ministry said of the test: “Based on the results of the first test last week, there were no special instructions for the public throughout the day and the impact on air quality on the coast opposite the gas rig was minimal. There is no cause for evacuating residents and all experts believe there are no risks to the public during this flushing process.”