THE SEARCH FOR OIL IN THE LAND OF ISRAEL
A BIBLICAL TREASURE HUNT
By Philip Mandelker
SCRIPTURALLY INSPIRED / INFLUENCED PETROLEUM
EXPLORATION IN ISRAEL
1. Company: Asher Oil Company
Founder: Wesley Hancock. California based. A family company was active in oil and gas exploration in the United States.
Scriptural Basis: Blessing of Asher in Deuteronomy and story of Elijah’s sacrifice in I Kings.
Period of Activity: Early-middle 1960s.
Area of Activity: North-east flank of Mt. Carmel overlooking the plain of the Kishon Stream.
Primary Activity: Drilling of two wells:
(i) Asher #1: 1963 – drilled to 2,391 meters (7,845 ft) to a target in the Middle Jurassic. Results: Dry.
(ii) Asher #2: 1965 – drilled to 1,314 meters (4,311 ft) to a target in the Middle Jurassic. Results: Dry
Related Non-Scripturally Inspired Drilling:
In 1975, Sonol, a major Israeli gasoline marketing company reentered the Asher #2 well and deepened it to 2,596 meters (8,517 ft) to a target in the Early Jurassic. In 1980, OEL, an Israeli-government exploration company drilled the Asher #3 near the first two Asher wells to 574 meters (1,883 ft) to a Cretaceous target. Both these wells were dry.
2. Company: Energy Exploration Inc.
Founder: Andy Sorelle. Texas based petroleum engineer and wildcatter.
Scriptural Basis: Blessing of Asher in Deuteronomy
Period of Activity: First half of 1980s.
Area of Activity: Coastal plain between Mt. Carmel and the Mediterranean Sea, specifically in the area of the town of Atlit.
Primary Activity: Drilling of one well in two stages:
(i) Atlit #1: 1981 – drilled to 5,273 meters (17,301 ft) to a target in the Early Jurassic. Results: Dry
(ii) Atlit #1 Deep: 1982-1983 – deepened the Atlit #1 to 6,531 meters (21,428 ft) to target in Late Triassic. Results: asphalt and then light oil shows in cuttings before well was lost for technical reasons.
3. Company: Moriah Exploration
Founder: Gilman Hill. Colorado based geoscientist active in oil and gas exploration and developer of exploration technology.
Scriptural Basis: Story of Elijah’s sacrifice in I Kings and the Blessing of Asher in Deuteronomy.
Period of Activity: Early and mid-1980s.
Area of Activity: Mt. Carmel near the traditional site of the Elijah sacrifice.
Primary Activity: Drilling of two wells in 1980 and 1986:
(i) Elijah #1: 1980 – drilled to 2,682 meters (8,800 ft) to a target in the Middle Jurassic. Results: Dry.
(ii) Elijah #2: 1986 – drilled to 651 meters (2,136 ft) to a target in the Cenomanian. Results: Dry.
4. Company: Ness Energy
Founder: Harold “Hayseed” Stephens. A Texas oil and gas explorationist and operator.
Scriptural Basis: Genesis stories of Sodom and Gomorrah and a long series of scriptural references in various books of the Old Testament.
Period of Activity: 1980s and late 1990s-2001.
Area of Activity: Area surrounding the southwest quadrant of the Dead Sea and adjacent areas.
Primary Activity: Participation in drilling of one well in 1985; acquisition of certain exploration licenses in the late 1990s. The well, the Har Sedom #1 was targeted to be drilled to about 3,500 meters about 11,500 ft), but was lost for technical reasons at 1,818 meters (5,965 ft) in the Pliocene. The exploration licenses were lost following the failure of Ness to meet its obligations under the licenses to commence the drilling of wells on the license areas.
Related Non-Scripturally Inspired Drilling Activity
The Har Sedom #1 project and well were developed and operated by an Israeli commercial oil exploration company, Seismica. Ness Energy held a minority working interest (about 15%) in the well.
5. Company: Hoshana Oil Company
Founder: Bernard Coffindaffer. West Virginia based evangelical minister and missionary.
Scriptural Basis: Blessings of Asher, Zebulon and Issachar in Deuteronomy
Period of Activity: Early 1990s
Area of Activity: Southern flank of Mt. Carmel and the Valley of Jezreel just east of the South-eastern flank of Mt. Carmel.
Primary Activity: Acquisition of an exploration license and reprocessing and analysis of seismic data. License lapsed with no progress made towards drilling of well.
6. Company: Camberly Exploration
Founder: Lyle Harron. Canadian oil and gas explorationist.
Scriptural Basis: Blessings of Asher in Deuteronomy
Period of Activity: Early-middle 1990s.
Area of Activity: Coastal plain between Mt. Carmel and the Mediterranean Sea.
Primary Activity: Drilling of one well:
(i) Atlit #2: 1996 – drilled to 1,633 meters (5,388 ft) to a target in the Early Cretaceous. Results: Dry.
7. Company: Givot Olam Oil Exploration
Founder: Tovia Luskin. Russian born and educated geophysicist, active in oil and gas exploration in Canada and Australia, before moving to Israel.
Scriptural Basis: The Blessings of Joseph in Genesis and Deuteronomy
Period of Activity: 1990s to date
Area of Activity: Eastern portion of Sharon Plain between Netanya and Modiin
Primary Activity: Drilling of three wells commencing in 1994:
(i) Meged #2: 1994 – drilled to 5,200 meters (17,061 ft) to a target in the Triassic. Results: 400 API Silurian aged oil recovered from the Middle Triassic.
(ii) Meged #3: 2000 – drilled to 4,742 meters (15,683 ft) to a target in the Triassic. Results: Oil and gas shows in the Middle Triassic, but reservoir of very poor quality (very low porosity and permeability.)
(iii) Meged #4: 2002/3 – drilled to 4,919 meters (16,139 ft) to a target in the Triassic. Results: 360 API Silurian aged oil recovered from the Middle Triassic. Attempts in 2005 to drill a horizontal bore-hole in the well in an attempt to recover the oil which is located in tight reservoir rock failed apparently for technical reasons, with the well abandoned following loss of equipment in the horizontal bore.
Plans underway to drill another Meged well and attempt to develop the Meged field discovery, which was recognized by the Israel Petroleum Commissioner in 2004.
8. Company: Zion Oil & Gas, Inc.
Founder: John Brown. Michigan and Texas based businessman with roots in the machine-tool industry and active in building contracting sectors.
Scriptural Basis: The Blessings of Joseph in Genesis and Deuteronomy.
Period of Activity: 1990s to date.
Area of Activity: Manasseh hills and Sharon plain from the southern flanks of Mt. Carmel to Netanya.
Primary Activity: Drilling of a well in 2005:
(i) Ma’anit #1: (Re-entry) 2005 – deepening of previously abandoned Ma’anit #1 from 2,335 meters (7,661 ft) to 4,719 meters (15,483 ft) to targets in the Middle and Early Triassic. Results: The company announced that during drilling and completion operations, the well had numerous significant oil and gas shows in a 2,100-foot interval.
Analysis of the results of the well is continuing and future activity, including designing comprehensive completion procedure and drilling of an appraisal well being considered.
Related Non-Scripturally Inspired Drilling Activity:
The Ma’anit #1 was originally drilled to 2,335 meters (7,661 ft) in 1995 by an Israeli commercial oil exploration company, Sdot Neft. Though originally targeted to 4,500 meters (14,765 ft), it was abandoned as a dry hole after Sdot Neft ran out of money
(for a PDF Download of Philip Mandelker’s entire study go to: http://www.oilinisrael.net/resources/biblical-treasure-hunt-free-pdf)
According to Zion CEO Richard Rinberg’s ‘Zion Oil & Gas Newsletter’, Zion Oil began drilling the Elijah #3 well last week and by last Friday’s report, drilling depth on the Elijah #3 had reached 400 feet.
The Elijah #3 well site is located on northern Israel’s coastal plain near Mount Carmel, between Caesarea and Haifa, in Zion’s ‘Asher/Menashe” license area. Zion Oil’s Elijah #3 isn’t the first oil well to be drilled in this area and Zion Oil isn’t the first company to come to this region, known in the Bible as the ‘foot of Asher’, seeking the fulfillment of an ancient Bible prophecy. “And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil.‘” (Deuteronomy 33:24)
In 1961, Bible believing Californian, Wesley Hancock was awarded an exploration license area of 97,000 acres including Mount Carmel and extended into parts of the Jezreel Valley, known as the “Valley of Megiddo,” site of the prophesied last days battle of Armageddon. Armed with a report forecasting Israel’s oil potential, and his Asher passage in Deuteronomy 33, Wesley went looking for Asher’s oil. On September 19, 1963 Wesley spudded the Asher #1, north and east of Mount Carmel near Haifa. Asher #1 had reached a depth of 7,800 feet when the drill head twisted off, taking seven drill collars with it. After the twist-off, chances of drilling any deeper were nil. By January of 1964, testing in the hole above 7,800 feet revealed that the Asher #1 was dry. In 1965 Wesley commissioned a hydrocarbon survey of his license area. This was the first petroleum survey of its kind in Northern Israel. The survey results led to choosing his location for the Asher #2 well. Hancock drilled the Asher #2 to a depth of 4,300 feet and core samples showed traces of oil. The Asher #2, however, was shut down; Hancock, without any other investors, had run out of money and was unable to continue drilling.
In 1979 Gilman Hill, an American evangelical Christian, came to Israel looking for Asher’s oil. According to Hill, God directed him to drill for oil and showed him the well’s location during a 1978 tour of Mount Carmel. Gill had completed preliminary geological surveys and fulfilled permit requirements to begin drilling by 1980.
Hill’s well, Elijah #1, was planned to be drilled to the upper Triassic strata, a depth of 15,000 to 16,000 feet. At 8,900 feet Gilman halted the drilling. According to Hill, God gave him the message, “circumstances have changed,” Gil was convinced that he was to cease drilling until further notice from God. Gil continued his geologic research for another six years waiting for a Divine release to resume drilling. The release never came. After spending $6 million of his own money on Mount Carmel, drawn by the Bible’s promise that Asher would “dip his foot in oil,” Gilman Hill had failed to find the elusive flow.
About the same time Hill started drilling Elijah #1, a Texas oil man named Andy SoRelle was busy preparing to drill the Atlit #1 well near Haifa, known as the Asher Project. SoRelle’s well was spudded in February 1981, the same year Jim Spillman’s book, The Great Treasure Hunt, was released. Spillman and SoRelle were mutual supporters, each understandably interested in the work of the other. Throughout the Asher Project SoRell updated Spillman on the progress of the well they both believed would strike the oil God had promised.
At 9,400 feet the drill bit hit volcanic rock. They drilled down through another 7600 feet before finally coming into limestone again. The drill bit, now at 17,296 feet was way beyond the rig’s capacity. Fearing he would lose the hole, Atlit’s drilling supervisor shut down the operation until a larger rig could be brought in.
December 28, 1982 a new drill rig, rated at 26,000 feet was installed over the original hole. This new phase, dubbed the Atlit #II was planned to bring the well as deep as 23,000 feet. By February of 1983 the well had been cleaned out and depth had been increased to 18,000 feet.
Drilling continued without incident until, at 20,570 feet Atlit II struck oil! What oil experts call “very good shows” came to the surface; graded as light oil at 35 to 40 degrees API. SoRelle continued to a final depth of 21,431 feet. The zone of oil bearing rock, was estimated at 470 feet, from 20,570 to 21,309 feet. Two years after spudding, the drilling phase of the Atlit well was finally complete!
During development problems emerged again. Financing for the project had been on a shoe-string at best. The crew had stopped casing the well at 13,772 feet. Not having funds for additional casing and reasoning that the volcanic rock they had struggled through was stable enough to hold the hole open the crew had continued drilling in “open hole.”
As the crew was cleaning the hole in preparation for the production casing, drill collars stuck at 18,669 ft and two weeks of jarring would not break them loose. Special equipment was flown to retrieve the string (130 ft. in length) and, while cleaning the hole to “fish” with the new equipment they stuck again at the 17,772 ft mark. After ten more days of trying to break loose, they came out leaving another 8 ½ foot fish in the hole.
August 24, 1983, more than two and a half years after spudding, Andy SoRelle called it quits for the Atlit hole. Having spent more than $25 million, his own money and that of his investors, Andy gave up on the Atlit well.
The history of the search for Asher’s oil doesn’t seem very promising. But if God said of Asher, ‘… let him dip his foot in oil …’ then I’m convinced He’ll keep His promise in His own time. One thing I do know; the oil is down there. Hancock saw it and SoRelle saw it. That Asher’s oil exists is a fact, when it will be brought to the surface is the only question.