Power glitch sees Leviathan offshore rig burn off natural gas, light up sky

Ministries and field operators affirm that there was no explosion at platform; coastal residents say roaring ball of fire woke them

Screen capture from video of natural gas being burned off by flare from the Leviathan platform off the coast of Caesarea, February 11, 2020. (Twitter)
Screen capture from video of natural gas being burned off by flare from the Leviathan platform off the coast of Caesarea, February 11, 2020. (Twitter)

A power failure overnight Monday at Israel’s offshore Leviathan rig caused operators to burn off natural gas at the platform in a safety procedure that lit up the sky off the coast with a ball of fire.

As a result of the incident, natural gas supplies from the platform were halted for several hours.

The burn-off at the rig, located some 10 kilometers (six miles) out to sea off Caesarea, was visible to coastal residents, some of whom said the roaring of the flames woke them from their sleep.

In posts to social media, residents described hearing a sound like rolling thunder and an explosion, and seeing the platform’s flare light up the sky.

עוטף לויתן מהדקות האחרונותהתעוררתי מקול של מבער חזק יותר משיגור טיל בלסטי איראניהשמיים בועריםלפידו של תשובה שואג מולי….

Posted by Moshe Zorea on Monday, February 10, 2020

The rig has faced opposition from local residents, municipal authorities, and environmental groups that want the platform moved further out to sea.

The energy and environmental protection ministries, along with rig operator Noble Energy, released statements explaining the malfunction and the safety measures taken.

The Energy Ministry said there was “an electricity outage at the field and a fault that required emptying the natural gas from the platform.”

“There was no explosion,” the ministry stressed.

It said the natural gas was burned off rather than released into the air. It will investigate the incident with Noble Energy and inform the public of its findings, the statement said.

Noble Energy said that, in accordance with regulations, a power failure “required transferring the natural gas to the flare that is meant for that purpose. There was no explosion or other exceptional event.”

After all systems were checked the supply of natural gas was resumed, the company said.

Natural gas supplies stopped at around 3:30 a.m. and were resumed at 7:45 a.m., Channel 12 reported.

The Environmental Protection Ministry said that Noble Energy informed it of the incident and that “there were no unusual concentrations [of polluting particles] recorded at the monitoring stations around the platform.”

The Sharon and Carmel Cities Association for Environmental Protection said that its own monitoring stations along the coast opposite the platform did not detect any irregularities. The association said in a statement that it was following the situation and would report on any relevant developments.

Those opposing the location of the platform include local authorities, the environmental organization Zalul, which seeks to protect the country’s seas and rivers, and Home Guardians, which was created specifically to fight against the platform’s location in the belief that it will adversely affect the health of local communities.

Homeland Guardians also posted video of the flare. The group claimed Tuesday that there have now been eight malfunctions at the platform since it began operating 40 days ago.

Activists want the processing platform for the offshore Leviathan natural gas field moved further out to sea from its current location, 9.7 kilometers (six miles) off Israel’s coast.

In late December, just before the $3.75 billion Leviathan project began producing gas, Texas-based Noble Energy, whose main partner is Yitzhak Tshuva’s Delek Drilling Ltd, conducted a pilot “commissioning” stage for the processing platform and pipes that included two sessions of so-called cold venting — emitting nitrogen directly into the atmosphere.

Fearful about pollution during the vents, thousands of coastal residents temporarily fled their homes.

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