Protesters ‘Evacuate’ Homes Over Leviathan Gas Production

The Leviathan gas field gas processing rig near the city of Caesarea. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Some 1,500 residents of coastal Israel north of Hadera locked up their houses Tuesday morning and drove in a caravan south, aiming to reach the offices of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, in protest over the official opening of the Leviathan oil field. Calling themselves “refugees of the Leviathan field,” the protesters compared themselves to residents of Gaza border towns who were forced to evacuate their homes in the wake of rocket attacks by Gaza terrorists.

The first two gas feeds from the Leviathan field were turned on Tuesday morning, with the Environment Ministry saying that Noble Energy, operator of the Leviathan off-shore operation, had “sufficiently proven” that gas production would not harm the environment.

At issue is the emission of gas that accompanies the extraction process. Environmental groups and local communities that sued over the matter, claiming that the process would cause large amounts of pollution in coastal communities, had their cases dismissed by courts, as Noble said that its models showed that the increase in pollution would be minimal, if any.

On Tuesday, an online server that Israelis could connect to in order to determine the current state of air pollution in their communities crashed as thousands of requests for information on the cleanliness of air in the coastal region inundated it.

The Environment Ministry stressed that there were no special instructions for residents in the wake of the flow of gas. Local authorities in the region said that schools would be open Tuesday.

The first customer for Leviathan gas is Egypt, which expects to get its first shipment next week. Egypt is the first international customer for natural gas from Israel, which will include gas from the Leviathan gas field, which is scheduled to enter production next month.

Under the deal, Israel will export a total of 60 billion cubic meters (BCM) of gas from Leviathan over the next 15 years, and 25 BCM from the Tamar field over that period as well. Between 2020 and 2034, some 26 billion BCM of that gas will go to Egypt, based on the arrangement between the Israeli licensees of the fields and the Egyptian company authorized to purchase the gas. Gas is also set to be exported to Jordan.

As a result of Leviathan gas production, Israelis will pay less for electricity beginning January 1st. Rates for home users will fall by 4.13%, and for businesses, factories, and public use (street lighting, etc.) by 5.3%. Electricity will cost an average of 53 agurot per kilowatt hour, instead of the current 55 agurot.