Production platform for Leviathan, Israel’s largest gas field, to arrive in days

Scheduled to start production this year, field off Haifa coast is estimated to hold 22 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, over double that of sister field Tamar

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

A marine crane vessel en route to Israel to set up the Leviathan natural gas platform  9.7 km (6 miles) from the popular Dor Beach, north of Caesarea. (Noble Energy)
A marine crane vessel en route to Israel to set up the Leviathan natural gas platform 9.7 km (6 miles) from the popular Dor Beach, north of Caesarea. (Noble Energy)

The production platform for the massive Leviathan natural gas field will be arriving in Israel within days, ahead of the start of production for the nation’s largest energy project later this year.

The production decks, comprising five units, are expected to arrive off the Israeli coast in the coming days on four barges, the partners in the field said on Wednesday.

A large offshore crane vessel — the world’s largest — will also be arriving to install the topside decks of the Leviathan platform, which will be set up 10 kilometers off the coast, at a water depth of 86 meters.

The topside decks are the surface decks of the platform, including all the equipment for drilling, production and processing, a helipad, work areas, and living quarters for those who will work on the rig. Setting up the decks will take some four weeks, the statement said.

The crane vessel is making its way to Israel to help set up the Leviathan platform which is expected to come online before the end of 2019 (Noble Energy)

The height of the topsides from sea level to the top will be 47 meters (154 feet), while the so-called platform boom — which is part of the safety system, enabling the burning of excess gas if needed to prevent hydrocarbon emissions into the atmosphere — will stand 130 meters (426 feet) above seal level.

In addition, the topsides will contain all the utilities required to operate the platform, including power generation, water desalination and waste treatment, making the platform independent of onshore facilities for any of its utility needs, the statement said.

After connecting and assembling the topside units of the platform, Noble Energy, the operator and a partner in the Leviathan field, will conduct a series of tests before initiating commercial gas flow to the domestic market before the end of 2019, the statement said.

Upon the start of production, once the field is connected to the pipeline, Leviathan will make it possible for the energy sector to be based almost exclusively on electricity generated by natural gas, the statement said.

Coal, which once produced 65% of the electricity supply, today accounts for less than 30%, with the rest replaced by natural gas and solar energy, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said last week at the opening of Israel’s largest renewable energy project in Ashalim, in the Negev Desert. The goal is to completely eliminate coal and rely only on clean energy sources, such as natural gas and renewable energy, he said.

An aerial view of an Israeli offshore gas rig (Albatross Aerial photography/Noble Energy/Flash90/File)

The  Leviathan field, located in the Mediterranean Sea 125 kilometers west of Haifa, is estimated to hold 22 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, and also holds a potential half a million barrels of oil, according to estimates provided by a partner in the field, Ratio Oil Exploration 1992 LP.

Noble Energy and its partners in Leviathan — including Delek Drilling LP, a unit of the Delek Group, and Ratio — discovered the field in 2010, one of the largest deep water natural gas finds in the world.

The partners have invested $3.75 billion to date in the development of the reservoir, the statement said. The nearby Tamar field, owned by Noble, Delek and Israeli firm Isramco Negev 2, LP, started producing gas in 2013 and has been supplying Israel with fuel. It holds some 10 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas, half of the amount held in Leviathan.

Four production wells at Leviathan, with an average depth of five kilometers below sea level, each have a production capacity of 300 million cubic feet of natural gas per day, with a total annual production capacity of around 12 billion cubic meters, the statement said. This will more than double the quantity of natural gas produced in Israel today.

Natural gas from the field will be transmitted through two 120-kilometer subsea pipelines directly to the Leviathan platform, where the natural gas will be processed. The treated gas will then flow from the platform through a northern entry pipeline connected to the national gas transmission system of Israel Natural Gas Lines.

The project has been the focus of bitter opposition from environmentalists and others over the years.

Still, the discoveries have brought Israel closer to energy independence and are considered a huge milestone in Israel’s economic history. They have paved the way for Israel to become an exporter of natural gas and are seen to help grease the wheels of regional diplomacy.

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