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It is forbidden to build a liquid natural gas facility in Israel

The Turkish boycott emphasizes Israel's need for economic resilience. When discussing the stabilization of our economic status, one of the topics that comes up again and again is the contribution of natural gas exports to the economy. One of the ways to increase exports is the construction of a natural gas liquefaction facility. However, this is a no less dangerous step (opinion)

By Dr. Daniel Mader, Zivata - Science and Environment News Agency

A typical LNG ship contains energy equivalent to 70 nuclear bombs. Illustration: depositphotos.com
A typical LNG ship contains energy equivalent to 70 nuclear bombs. Illustration: depositphotos.com

The economic boycott of Turkey Adds to the many geopolitical complexities of the Iron Swords War. In fact, this is another step in a possible path to make Israel a leper in the world, if for example other countries choose to follow Erdogan's decision. When thinking about opportunities for the trade relations of the State of Israel, among the issues that must be taken into account is the field of energy. One of the options that are tested In order to increase the volume of natural gas exports from Israel, and thereby the state's revenues, is the construction of a natural gas liquefaction facility. However, despite the promising potential, this is a mistake. 

The liquefaction of natural gas into liquefied natural gas (LNG) is performed by cooling it to a low temperature of 162 degrees Celsius below zero, reducing its volume 600 times, and enabling the transportation of huge quantities of natural gas using LNG ships. after the Russia's invasion of Europe and the European disengagement from the Russian gas pipelines, the volume of natural gas imports via LNG ships to Europe has increased significantly, and LNG exporters are making large profits. As far as the State of Israel is concerned, if a blue-white LNG facility is built, we will not be dependent on gas exports only through pipelines to Jordan and Egypt (some of the gas is liquefied at the LNG facility in Egypt and exported from there).  

Why don't we join the gospel of liquid natural gas?

The immediate critical reason for rejecting the idea is that, as we have all come to know, the State of Israel is the most threatened developed country in the world. Despite huge investments in security, amazing successes of Israeli and other interception technologies, the last seven months have proven that Israel is not able to hermetically protect its strategic sites including Essential energy infrastructures. All the ships in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean that have some imagined or real connection to Israel have become a legitimate target for the Khots, Iran's proxies. Theories among bodies such as the Ministry of Energy according to which Israel's transformation into a natural gas exporter will lead to an improvement in our geopolitical position to the point of reducing the security risk in Israel, turned out to be unfounded

Also, in the past six months, we have heard many reports warning that we must prepare for a "long Alta scenario of days and even months", since an all-out war with Hezbollah or with Iran - which would be much more difficult than the current war - would result in severe damage to the centralized Israeli energy sector . Why, instead of focusing in the massive decentralization of the energy economy The Israeli to make it immune, the Ministry of Energy is considering investing resources in adding a large, vulnerable and dangerous strategic energy facility? 

What is dangerous about liquid natural gas?

In peaceful areas, LNG technology is considered relatively safe. However, in the case of a large leak of liquefied natural gas, it may flow on land or over the sea for a long distance. Also, the great advantage of reducing the volume of natural gas by 600 times produces a concentration of dangerous fuel in huge volumes. A typical LNG ship Contains energy on a scale equal to 70 nuclear bombs like the one that destroyed you Hiroshima in 1945. Therefore, when LNG technology is used in disaster-prone areas, a deliberate attack on the infrastructure could cause a huge leak, a huge fire, a huge explosion or a series of explosions. Economic damage in such a targeted attack could add up to the entire cost of the facility and the gas it contains and reach 10 billion dollars, not including damage to other infrastructures and people. 

From a 2011 review that examined the issue in Israel shows that a single incident of a large leak or explosion at an LNG facility near a population center could lead to 15,000 casualties as a result of the explosion, from cold burns (as mentioned, the temperature of the LNG is 162 degrees Celsius below zero), from heat burns originating from fires, suffocation and accidents. Such an event could also wreak widespread destruction on infrastructure in an area of ​​many square kilometers in a short time. The immediate economic damage will reach tens of billions of shekels and perhaps even hundreds of billions. This is a damage and risk that is tens of times greater than the risk of damage to existing gas facilities in Israel. 

The indirect damage, of shutting down a significant percentage of the economy, may amount to hundreds of billions of shekels and even more (see the damages involved in the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents for more than seven months during the current war). Therefore, in the same review from 2011, it was recommended not to build LNG infrastructures on land, but to establish them at sea at a distance of at least 15 kilometers from the coast. Indeed, the natural gas discharge site from the shearing ship, an LNG ship that supplied natural gas during the shortage in the Israeli gas market until 2022, was established at such a distance off the coast of Hadera. 

Liquid natural gas facility

The more LNG facilities there are, the lower the protection for each of them will be. Photo: Floydrosebridge,  CC BY-SA 3.0

From energy potential to terrorist target

If a few years ago there was an active LNG receiving facility here, why don't we build a new LNG facility? First of all, if we made a mistake in the past, it doesn't mean we have to repeat it again. Also, the use of the shearing ship in the past was intended for emergency needs of the Israeli economy to allow our economy to continue to function. On the other hand, now it is about creating a large and unreasonable risk for exporting gas abroad. A move of this kind may bring money into the state coffers, but it will contribute nothing to the functioning of the Israeli energy economy and may even harm the local economy if there is indeed a massive damage to such a facility, or to any LNG ship connected to Israel. 

Moreover, today, compared to the reality six months ago, no one can say that damage to Israeli strategic energy infrastructure is only theoretical. Every person in the country must take such an event seriously. There is no sufficient reason to add a non-essential, but very vulnerable and dangerous energy infrastructure facility to the list of energy facilities that Israel must protect. Since the means of protection are limited, the more installations there are, the lower the protection for each of them will be.  

An LNG facility at sea will be exposed not only to bombs, submarines, missiles and drones, but also to damage by an "innocent" merchant ship, which can simply sail and hit it. If you fail to divert a merchant ship sailing at maximum speed, you can stop it only after a distance of many kilometers. Even if the LNG facility is located at sea 15 kilometers from the coast, if attackers take control of an LNG ship, they can sail it ashore and detonate it near a coastal city. Of course, any LNG ship that originates in Israel will be a legitimate target for attack in other parts of the world as well, as is happening today in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. 

Therefore, Israel must not promote the construction of a liquefied natural gas facility that will only burden us security-wise and give our enemies a new opportunity to create unprecedented damage. Instead, the State of Israel should focus on decentralizing its energy sector into a million solar energy systems (photovoltaic cells) and energy storage, in order to become immune to attacks

Dr. Daniel Mader is a researcher and scientific consultant and one of the founders of SP Interface 

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