Israel’s shale oil discovery brings new controversy to the Golan Heights

A flag of Israel in the wind
Source: DollarPhotoClub

A shale oil find that could satisfy Israel’s need for energy for years to come has been reported by Afek Oil and Gas, a subsidiary of the U.S. company Genie Energy.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News, the company’s chief geologist, Yuval Bartov, said, “We are talking about a strata which is 350 meters thick, and what is important is the thickness and the porosity.”

“On average in the world strata are 20-30 meters thick,” Bartov said, “so this is 10 times as large as that, so we are talking about significant quantities. The important thing is to know the oil is in the rock and that’s what we now know.”

This is the first major onshore oil discovery for Israel, adding to the major offshore fields, Tamar and Leviathan, discovered in the past 15 years and which are now being tapped.

The newly-discovered crude deposits are problematic, though, not only because – as unconventional reserves – they require advanced technology, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, to get them out of the ground, but more so because they are located in the Golan Heights, which most nations, including the United States, regard as occupied territory. Israel captured much of the Golan from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War. Damascus has consistently demanded that the territory be restored to Syrian control.

The Golan Hights discovery is particularly significant as it offers Israel a chance to develop its own, thriving, oil industry – something that the country been searching for for a long time. Since the country was founded in 1948, energy companies have drilled more than 500 exploratory wells, but only a few have proved to be commercially successful.

“There is enormous excitement,” Afek’s Bartov told Channel 2 News. “It’s a fantastic feeling. We came here thinking maybe yes or maybe no, and now things are really happening.”

As the portal Haaretz reported, Effi Eitam, Afek’s chairman, was unavailable for comment but Genie’s shares were up 4.3% to $10.09 in early trading in New York yesterday.

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