A liquid by-product of natural gas and petroleum production constitutes an environmental hazard because it emits toxic substances, says a new report issued by the Environmental Protection Ministry.
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The by-product – called condensate gas, or simply condensate – is present in natural gas produced at gas reservoirs. Among other things, it is used to dilute heavier oils, such as crude, that cannot otherwise be efficiently transported via pipelines.
The report, published this month, says gas-facility operators must act to prevent the condensate from leaking and monitor the facilities where it is stored.
In the year 2014-2015, 740,000 barrels of condensate were produced in the Tamar offshore gas field. The larger Leviathan gas field, also in the Mediterranean, is estimated to consist of close to 40 million barrels.
Condensate is stored in canisters and requires treatment before being taken to refineries. During its storage, it causes the emission of volatile toxic organic substances, which evaporate at a higher rate than from raw petroleum.
Until now, condensate was put into canisters close to the Ashdod refinery, and taken from there to the refinery. The Environmental Protection Ministry is now demanding that Noble Energy – the company that operates the facility – obtain a special permit to restrict the emission of pollutants. The company was required to install a fuel-removal system by the end of the year; this is meant to reduce the pollutants’ emissions by 98 percent.
The report didn’t recommend where to place the condensate – only that its separation from the natural gas and stabilization are carried out offshore, well away from people, to reduce exposure to the fumes.
The report also said that before storing the condensate in a facility on land, a survey must be held to check the polluting emissions expected in the environment. The facility’s operators will have to carry out a program to reduce emissions, including the use of a fume-removal system, or putting floating tops on the canisters to prevent fume emission.
The operators will also have to provide air samples from outside the facility’s fence every two weeks, the report said.
The report also recommended that, for safety and environmental considerations, the facility operators must stabilize the condensate before passing it onto users. This means it will have to be refined further before it can be used as a fuel substitute.
The ministry said the report was the first scientific paper prepared to help the ministry’s experts learn more about the subject.
The report is one of many the ministry plans to prepare to set standards regarding condensate, and will help ministry officials draft “suitable regulations.”
Hardly any regulations currently exist specifically for condensate, only for the overall handling of petroleum refinery products.
Environmental groups in the Haifa Bay region strongly oppose condensate being stored there. They say it will add an additional air-pollution factor to an area already exposed to high pollution levels.
The organizations fear that the new gas storage facility planned east of the current refineries will be used in the future to also store condensate.