Israeli Greens Fume as Noble Energy Asks to Block Publication of Leviathan Data

At issue is data meant to be privy to the public under the emissions permit the company will be receiving, which will set the pollution limits allowed during operation of the rigs

An Israeli gas platform in the Mediterranean Sea, August 1, 2014.
\ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

The Noble Energy company has asked to block publication of some of the data connected to the gas platform at Leviathan for reasons of commercial secrecy. At issue is data meant to be privy to the public under the emissions permit the company will be receiving, which will set the pollution limits allowed during operation of the rigs.

The area’s Association of Cities for the Environment is demanding that all the data be released, and the Environmental Protection Ministry is also arguing that as much data as possible should be made public.

A year-and-a-half ago Noble Energy launched the process for requesting an emissions permit, which all industrial installations must have under the Clean Air Law. On the gas processing platform that the company plans to start operating next year, there will be processes that could lead to the emission of large amounts of toxic substances, such as benzene. Under the emissions permit, the company is required to install measures on the platform to reduce these emissions.

As part of the permit application process, the company redacted a considerable amount of information in the permit documents that were published, on grounds they were trade secrets. The information removed included details about the chimneys on the platform and various processes for storing materials. The gas treatment platform is meant to be erected 10 kilometers from Dor Beach. Its planned construction has ignited a furious public struggle in the region. Residents fear, among other things, wide-ranging air pollution. They note that the gas processing platform at the Tamar drilling site emitted large quantities of health-threatening pollutants. The residents argue that Noble Energy’s installations deviated from U.S. environmental regulations.

The Sharon-Carmel Association of Cities for the Environment met last week with the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry director general Udi Adiri and asked him to work at getting all the information about the gas platform’s emissions permit publicized. They also claimed that there had been no examination of the entire emissions system on the platform.

“The construction of the gas platforms is a national necessity but the public that lives in the area is understandably concerned,” said association head Yaakov Edri. “That’s why there must be the greatest possible transparency, which is why the association is working with the Energy Ministry to get the data published.”

The Environment Ministry said, “By law, in an application for an emissions permit a plant may mark information submitted to the ministry as a trade secret. Noble Energy submitted its request for an emissions permit for the Leviathan platform, which included a great deal of information and statistics that was marked as trade secrets. After examining that request, the ministry rejected most of the claims about commercial secrecy and ordered that information made public. There remain only a few pieces of data that the ministry is still examining as to their compliance with commercial confidentiality regulations, and in accordance with the findings may insist that Noble Energy make them public in addition to what has already been published. It should be stressed that all the data about expected emissions is available to the public in the permit request documents and they do not fall into the category of trade secrets.”

With regard to the permit itself, the ministry said that the gas treatment platform at Leviathan was planned differently than the one at Tamar and the level of emissions is expected to be 98 percent lower than the current emissions from the Tamar platform. It added that Noble Energy has also submitted a plan to reduce the emissions at the Tamar platform by 98 percent, be implemented by the end of the first quarter of 2019.

Noble Energy said in response, “At issue is specific points of information of a technical nature; processes that have been developed over the years that have commercial value for the company. Nothing was blacked out regarding emissions and the way they are calculated.”