In 2014 the Ministry of Energy launched a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) project in the Mediterranean Sea. The project is intended to form a knowledge base and act as a decision making tool for the Petroleum Commissioner in granting petroleum exploration and production rights offshore Israel. Like similar projects done world-wide, the SEA is designed to weigh in environmental considerations in sustainable development of offshore oil and natural gas resources, and minimize potential harm to the ecosystem while evaluating other benefits of environmental, social, and economic value.
The SEA encompasses the State of Israel's entire marine area, including sovereign waters and the EEZ.
Following a tender process, GeoProspect - an Israel based consulting firm, was selected to conduct the SEA. A multidisciplinary team was assembled, including environmental consultants, economists, and engineers. GeoProspect worked together with BMT CORDAH, which has wide global experience in preparing strategic offshore environmental assessments.
Work on the survey includes:
This survey is the first of its kind and is setting new standards in the way natural resources are administered in Israel. The content of the SEA complies with international practice and the OECD requirements and European Union directives.
- An international review of similar SEA projects related to offshore development.
- Establishing a website dedicated for the SEA.
- Formulating a methodology for sharing all stages of the survey with the public.
- Collecting existing environmental information and mapping habitats and high-value areas (performed by the IOLR and the GSI).
- Preparing an economic analysis and evaluating the services of the Mediterranean Sea ecosystem in comparison with the benefits of oil and gas development. Assessing the cost of compromising them by developing offshore petroleum and natural-gas resources compared with the benefits of developing these resources.
- Defining and analyzing alternative methods of weighing environmental considerations of sustainable development of offshore petroleum resources.
- Preparing and publishing a final report after implementing the public and stakeholders feedback.
The final report contains maps of habitats and environmentally sensitive areas. It also presents a variety of alternatives for developing offshore oil and gas resources. The report includes an in depth discussion of the potential environmental impacts of implementing each of the development alternatives. The report also provides recommendations for implementing its conclusions, identifying information gaps and ways to improve the knowledge base, and establishing indices for monitoring the recommendations and their implementation.
A steering committee composed of representatives of government ministries, environmental NGO`s, public professional parties, oil and gas industry and other stakeholders, supervised the preparation of the SEA.
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The blocks offered in OBR 2021 were delineated in line with the SEA conclusions and are concentrated in areas of low vulnerability and high knowledge gap.