‘We’re Not Guinea Pigs’: Fearing Pollution, Israelis Leave Homes as Offshore Gas Production Begins

Texas-based Noble Energy began natural gas production at its Leviathan processing platform off Israel’s Mediterranean on Tuesday morning. As processing of the gas begins, dozens of tons of pollutants were expected to be emitted, including 76 kilograms (167 pounds) of benzene, a carcinogen. The processing platform is 9.5 kilometers (about 6 miles) off Israel’s Carmel coast.

Some residents in the Carmel coast region, south of Haifa, planned to leave their homes for at least the duration of the startup phase of production. They have also scheduled a demonstration outside the government office complex in Tel Aviv to protest what they say is the health risk posed by the emissions from the platform.

By Tuesday morning, some residents evacuated, while local authorities said no irregular pollution had been detected.

According to the Sharon-Carmel Association of Cities for the Environment, the extraction of undersea natural gas to the platform was set to begin before dawn from two wells at a drilling platform 120 kilometers (75 miles) off the Israeli coast. The gas will flow through a pipeline to the processing platform 9.5 kilometers from the coast off Dor Beach.

At about 7 A.M., the processing of the gas and the emission of the pollutants began. The emissions are expect to continue until 3 P.M.

The Sharon-Carmel Association of Cities and the Environmental Protection Ministry will be monitoring the process with hourly reports on the composition of the gas and a sampling of the pollutants at several different locations. Thermal cameras will monitor possible leaks.

Both agencies said that according to forecast models, air pollution on shore should not exceed maximum allowable benzene concentrations.