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Israel fines Noble Energy-Chevron £850,000 after offshore rig violates discharge permit

16 November 2020

On November 15, Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection imposed a fine of NIS 3,783,276 (£850,000 / $1.1m) on Noble Energy Mediterranean, which was recently acquired by Chevron. The company violated conditions of its discharge permit for the Leviathan gas production platform into the Mediterranean Sea.

Leviathan rig - Image: Noble Energy
Leviathan rig - Image: Noble Energy

Noble-Chevron was fined after company directors were summoned to a hearing by the National Marine Environmental Protection Unit regarding the Leviathan rig issue. 

In a statement, Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said, "Chevron should learn the lessons from the blatant violations of Noble Energy. We will not allow massive companies to endanger the public. The National Marine Environmental Protection Unit in my ministry closely monitors all facilities and activities in Israel's seas. We will continue to take a hard and uncompromising stand against those who harm the environment. The policy is clear – the polluter pays."

The Levithan gas rig obtained a legal permit to discharge materials into the sea when it began partial operations in December 2019. However, tests conducted by the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s marine unit found that Noble Energy violated a number of conditions in the discharge permit within the first months of Leviathan's operation. Several deviations from permit conditions were recorded. These included violations of its obligation to report to ministry inspectors, as well as deviations from discharge criteria set forth in the permit.

After examining the company's claims regarding the matter, Senior Ministry of Environmental Protection Deputy Director of Supervision and Enforcement Yitzhak Ben David decided to impose the financial sanction. The violations are serious, and the Ministry stressed that it will not allow the operation of facilities at sea without full transparency, or if non-compliance with conditions of the discharge permit (or any permit) is discovered.

Noble Energy, which also operates the Tamar gas platform off Israel’s coast, has come under the ministry’s scrutiny before. In August 2020, the Ministry of Environmental Protection published a report that said staff working on the Leviathan rig had failed to understand the seriousness of a gas leak that could have caused a “large loss of life” had it ignited. The investigative report conducted by British firm RPS was ordered by the ministry after more than 30 breakdowns happened in the Leviathan rig’s first five months of operation.

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