Israelis living near the Leviathan gas rig were awakened in the early hours of Tuesday by an explosion that "shook their homes" as the platform's flare boom burned off gas to prevent its emission into the atmosphere.
The rig, which is located some 10km off the coast of northern Israel and around 20km south of the city of Haifa, came online on December 31, 2019.
The incident was triggered by a power cut on the rig during the night. Gas production was also halted until "the integrity of all systems was checked," said Noble Energy, which operates the rig.
"A malfunction required us to empty all the natural gas from the rig by burning it," said the Energy Ministry on Tuesday morning.
"This is similar to what is done whenever the rig is emptied, when the flare burns the natural gas so that it does not escape into the air," the ministry said.
"It should be emphasized that there was no explosion on the rig. The ministry will investigate the incident with Noble Energy and update the public on its findings."
The Environmental Protection Ministry said it was investigating the circumstances of the incident, adding that Noble Energy had announced the suspension of operations on the rig due to a malfunction.
The ministry stressed that the monitoring stations around the rig had not recorded any abnormal emissions.
"The issue is under investigation and the ministry will update the public with its results and with any data from the monitoring stations that indicates abnormalities."
The Homeland Guard environmental NGO said Tuesday that the explosion sh residents of the Carmel Coast arose from a loud explosion that shook their homes.
A local resident said: "I was awakened by very loud rolling thunder, which did not sound natural. At first I thought it might be the Air Force, but then there was a major explosion that made me immediately realize that it was the rig.
"I leaned out of the window where we can see the rig from our house and I saw a really huge flame out at sea that lit up the entire sky and the water. It looked really bad and out of control. Since the rig became operational, there have been constant glitches."
The explosion occurred at 3:40 am, she said.
Tal Gonen of the Homeland Guards said: "Noble Energy's standards and its dubious record are cause for real concern for everyone.
"The operating period of the rig, which was only supposed to last 45 days and actually should have ended immediately after the gas started to flow, has been extended and extended without explanation, and serves as a convenient alibi for the unbridled emission of pollutants.
"The operation of the rig has been riddled with faults. According to the Environmental Protection Ministry guidelines, any malfunction that requires the flare boom to be operated has to carry out an investigation and present a detailed report.
In the meantime, despite the countless uses of the flare, we haven't seen any report, and the only explanation we get is that everything is normal and this is fine."