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Refining and petrochemicals group shifts to cleaner energy

 Israel’s largest refining and petrochemicals group, Oil Refineries plans to invest $1.5 billion to become a cleaner energy company as it faces a government push to shut down more polluting factories.

Israel has proposed shutting a major industrial zone in the coastal city of Haifa that health officials say has been hazardous for years and turning it into an eco-friendly commercial and residential hub.

The country would in turn rely more heavily on imports. No final decision has been made.

Haifa-based Oil Refineries, which controls about two-thirds of the domestic fuel market, has opposed the move. But the company's new 10-year plan seems to bring it more in line with the government's vision.

In the plan presented to investors and analysts, Oil Refineries said it will focus on green hydrogen and alternative fuels for transportation, advanced polymers that are recycled and biodegradable, and biopolymers.

At least $400 million will be invested in "new growth engines" and the rest is for "improving and adapting existing assets, assimilating advanced technologies to create and reducing the carbon footprint," it said.

Haifa, Israel’s third largest city and a key seaport, juts off the coastline into the eastern Mediterranean and has grown over the past century into a crossroads for trade and industry.

The city, in turn, has high levels of air pollution and residents suffer from an “excess” of ailments linked to air pollution such as respiratory disease, malignancies and birth defects, according to a recent report by a government panel.

The panel found Haifa has become “stagnant” with low population growth and recommended phasing out within a decade a number of factories, including those belonging to Oil Refineries, that supply much of the country’s fuel products and petrochemicals used in materials like plastics and asphalt. (Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch Editing by Steven Scheer and Elaine Hardcastle)

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