Paz Ashdod Oil Refinery slapped with NIS 906,000 fine over black smoke emissions
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Paz Ashdod Oil Refinery slapped with NIS 906,000 fine over black smoke emissions

Refinery, reportedly up for sale, accused of endangering public health and of ‘serious system maintenance failures’ after electric system broke down and backup failed

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

The entrance to the Paz Refinery in Israel's southern port city of Ashdod, January 26, 2013. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
The entrance to the Paz Refinery in Israel's southern port city of Ashdod, January 26, 2013. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

The Paz Ashdod oil refinery has been fined NIS 906,000 ($260,000) for an incident in which the firm’s electrical system broke down and thick black smoke was allowed to billow out of chimneys for more than an hour.

The incident took place in 2017.

The Environmental Protection Ministry said in a statement released Wednesday that particles that were not fully combusted entered the air, posing a danger to public health because the particles can penetrate blood vessels and lungs.

The company claimed that the breakdown had occurred during renovations.

But the ministry found that backup systems had failed as well, indicating “serious system maintenance failures” and a lack of preparation in the event of such failures.

The business site The Marker reported on Wednesday that the Paz company was looking to sell the oil refinery, officially as part of a company reorganization.

Paz has reportedly asked the investment bank Leumi Partners to search for a buyer.

Paz chairman Avraham Bigger reportedly wants to focus on the company’s gas stations and associated Yellow minimarkets, and to cash in on the real estate potential of the refinery.

Paz purchased the refinery on Israel’s southern coast from the state in 2006.

According to The Marker, the pressure to sell the refinery stems both from its relatively low profitability and local and international trends toward replacing fossil fuels with renewables, such as solar and wind energy, in order to tackle global warming.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz has said he was “considering” raising the country’s renewables target for 2030 from 17 percent to between 25% and 30%, and would be consulting with his professional staff. He also envisages that all cars will be run on electricity by this date.

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