I’ve had some e-mails asking if the war in Gaza is a threat to Israel’s oil and gas exploration. The current on-shore efforts by Zion Oil & Gas in the north and Ginko in the Dead Sea region aren’t near enough to Gaza to be under any immediate threat related to this action. Off-shore gas exploration in the north isn’t affected for the same reason. And the long-term stability of gas fields off the coast of Gaza could only be improved by Israel ousting Hamas and working toward a sustainable peace in Gaza. Everybody, including British Gas, who works the field, Egypt, Gaza’s (and Israel’s) neighbor to the south and Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas agree on that one. So ‘does the current action in Gaza put oil and gas exploration and production in Israel at risk?’ The quick answer is ‘no,’ I don’t think so.
But everything is relative. Israel isn’t a very big country. Geographically it’s a little smaller than New Jersey and it’s population (a little over 7 million) is smaller than New Jersey’s (almost 9 million). Imagine New Jersey as an independent country surround by enemies and with a war on one of its borders. Israel is always under a potential threat from at least one of its neighbors and any military action anywhere in the country is going to affect the country and its people as a whole.
My friend, Richard Rinberg, CEO of Zion Oil, has two children in the Israeli military. Thankfully they are not at the tip of the spear in this current action, but many of the Rinberg family friends are. If you’re an Israeli, you’re affected by what’s happening in Gaza; it’s inescapable.
But, again, everything is relative. What’s also inescapable is the history of Israel’s greatest ally standing at her side. The US has stood by Israel since her re-birth in 1948. But I’m not talking about the US; Israel has a much older, much greater ally. Israel’s greatest military leader penned these words a long time ago: “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the G_d of Jacob protect you.”
He also reminded the Israeli people where to place their trust in national emergencies: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our G_d.” Israel’s king David was the leader who penned those words. You can read them in Psalm 20. If you want to say a prayer for Israel today, Psalm 20 is a good one.
As far as Israel’s oil is concerned? Israel’s G_d has that in hand as well.
(Prophecy Today Archive October 13, 2006) Story by Shofar Communications Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ed Horner; Photos by Allison Horner. Article courtesy of Prophecy Today. The original article can be viewed at http://jimmydeyoung.gospelcom.net/pp/israelifront/2006_10_13_archive.html.
Surrounded by the richest oil countries in the world, many would wonder why Israel has never found oil. Now they have. Ginko Oil Exploration, led by Dr. Eli Tannenbaum, has located a potentially large oil field in the Dead Sea region of Israel.
The Dead Sea, near a large oil deposit
Dr. Tannembaum and other specialists on site
In an effort to attract financial partners to harvest the oil, Ginko Oil Exploration reopened a small previously drilled oil well near the Dead Sea and began extracting oil. In an on site interview with Dr. Tannenbaum, he said this first strike is very exciting because it shows that there is oil in the region that can be harvested. He said that Ginko will begin drilling the second well within two months and that the second well should produce a much more significant amount of oil.
An exploration oil rig
One step in the process of oil extraction
Dr. Tannenbaum says that this oil region is not directly connected with surrounding oil fields, but that the sources of the oil deep inside the earth’s crust could be related. He said the oil field in the Dead Sea region is on a deep rift (or tear) similar to Libyan or Egyptian oil fields. The Dead Sea region is the lowest point on earth at almost 400 meters below sea level. Tannenbaum says that he does not foresee Israel’s drilling of oil to be detrimental to surrounding nations’ oil fields.
Ed speaks with Dr. Tannenbaum
Ed speaks with Ginko Exploration’s Site Supervisor
Ginko Exploration’s Site Supervisor said that Israel currently has two oil refineries that could refine the newly extracted crude oil. The extracted crude oil would be taken to the refineries by truck. Israel does not currently have an oil pipeline from this region, and it would most likely not need one in the near future.
Here is Israel’s future oil field
Lead Geologist, Dr. Eli Tannenbaum
My wife and I had the privilege of watching some of Israel’s first oil being pumped from 1800 Meters beneath our feet. Ginko began dismantling the exploration rig while we were on site. They were then going to place a permanent pump on the well as the first of many in the region.
The flow of oil must be carefully monitored
A head on oil well
Israelis currently pay the highest gas prices in the Middle East. Gasoline is approximately $6.50 per gallon and Diesel is $5 per gallon. If Israel could produce its own fuel, it could mean lower prices at the pump for the average Israeli.
The oil is just flowing from this dig
Oil being extracted
Oil in Israel can mean less economic dependence on oil from surrounding countries. It could also mean fewer political negotiations with oil producing countries that routinely plot the demise of Israel.
Aug. 26, 2008
Ehud Zion Waldoks , THE JERUSALEM POST
The search for oil in Israel got a big push forward on Tuesday night after The Nature and Parks Authority general assembly approved plans for the drilling of an exploratory hole to search for oil in the Judean nature reserve. Two Israeli companies, Ginko Oil Exploration and Delek Energy Systems, believe there could be as much as 6.5 million barrels below the reserve.
The assembly approved Zuk Tamrur 4 on the condition that the Authority comes up with strict guidelines to reduce the environmental damage as much as possible. The assembly also demanded that the companies rehabilitate the area afterwards. In addition, if oil were to be found, the assembly ruled, the pumps to remove it would have to be placed outside the reserve.
Until now, the Authority’s administration had rejected all attempts at drilling, but they were overruled Tuesday by the general assembly, which comprises representatives of environmental organizations and the government.
Avraham Poraz, former internal affairs minister and now consultant to the oil companies, told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday night how he explained the issue to the assembly a month ago in the run-up to the decision.
“I put it to them very simply. One third of Israel is nature reserves. It cannot be that we can’t search for oil in one third of the country.
“Moreover, I told them that according to our ecological estimations, the damage would be minimal because we are talking about 1.25 acres without fences, or dogs or anything like that,” he told the Post.
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) decried the decision.
“We are distressed that the assembly gave in to the pressures of the initiators, did not heed its own science committee’s recommendation against the plan and so will cause unnecessary damage to the reserve,” the organization said in a statement.
The Authority had suggested drilling a hole diagonally from outside the reserve to search for oil, but a geological consultant said that would create too many problems, an Authority spokesman said.
Ginko director Rami Karmin told the Post earlier this week that Zuk Tamrur 4 represented Israel’s best bet to find oil. He said they only needed 1.25 acres for two months to drill a hole 2,000 meters deep and see if they struck oil. 6.5 million barrels would be worth about $800 million, he added.
The area where the companies want to sink their hole represents a bridge for animal populations between the Judean and Negev reserves, the Authority’s science committee had written, and putting in a hole would block that narrow passageway. It had also said that any sort of drilling was bound to cause severe environmental damage and therefore recommended rejecting the request.
Two Israeli energy companies are convinced the best chance for finding oil in Israel lies at a site in the Judean Desert nature reserve and have stirred up a storm of controversy with their persistent requests to drill an exploratory hole.
The companies, Ginko Oil Exploration and Delek Energy System, want to drill in an empty corner of the desert. However, the Nature and Parks Authority Science Committee and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) contend that even exploratory drilling will destroy the fragile ecosystems in the reserve. The two sides will go head to head on Tuesday in front of the Nature and Parks Authority general assembly, the Authority’s highest body, which will decide whether to grant the companies’ request.
The situation, from an environmental perspective, has also been complicated by the fact that Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra has recommended the drilling plan, although on the condition the ecological damage was reversible.
Ginko made headlines two years ago when it discovered a small amount of oil near the Dead Sea through Zuk Tamrur 3. This time around, Ginko director Rami Karmin believes Zuk Tamrur 4 in the reserve has the best chance to produce as much as 6.5 million barrels.
But even he admits that drilling for oil is “a tricky business” and there are no guarantees.
“We are talking about drilling in a spot that the Authority had already approved drilling there 10 years ago, and we requested that spot because we thought they’d approve it again. The district committee approved it two weeks ago and now we need the Authority’s approval,” he said.
“We need [approximately] 1.25 acres out of 150,000 for two months so that we can drill an exploratory hole 2,000 meters down. We had an ecological company evaluate the area. There have also been other exploratory holes in the Dead Sea area and you can’t even see them anymore,” Karmin argued.
According to Karmin, Zuk Tamrur 4 is the likeliest place in Israel to find oil because of its unique geological properties.
“There is oil around the Dead Sea but the constant little earthquakes that occur because the Sea is on a fault line release the pressure before the oil can be driven to the surface. At this spot, there is a four-way closure and there is a good chance there is oil there,” he said.
However, SPNI argued Sunday in a position paper ahead of Tuesday’s meeting that the relatively small predicted reservoir did not justify the massive ecological damage. Israel uses about 80 million barrels of oil per year, or 270,000 per day. 6.5 million barrels would meet Israel’s needs for less than a month.
Karmin contended that the amount of oil wasn’t the point, its cost was.
“Six-and-a-half million barrels is worth about $800 million. The government would be receiving about $400m. in fees and taxes – can we really afford to turn down that much money?” he demanded.
The Authority’s Science Committee, nevertheless, has submitted its assessment report to the general assembly and has counseled the body to prohibit the companies from drilling. The committee consists of, among others, two professors and two doctors, including the Environmental Protection Ministry’s chief scientist Dr. Yishayahu Baror – who apparently disagrees with his minister.
Rather than a deserted corner of the desert, the site actually sits in the middle of a very narrow corridor which serves as a natural transit area between the Judean Desert Reserve and the Negev reserve, the committee said. Disturbing the area would have a massive impact on plant and animal life in the whole area, they argued. Animal populations would be cut off from their main groups with no way to get back to the Negev, they said.
The committee addressed both the potential damage from the initial drilling, but also the greater potential impact of striking oil.
While an exploratory hole would inevitably cause some damage, if oil was found, much more damage would result, the committee wrote. A constant stream of tanker trucks and the new roads they would require would doubtless result in severe damage. Even putting up lights, as is usual for drilling sites, would adversely affect the delicate ecosystems. The inevitable accidents if oil were found would pollute the ground in the area as well, according to the report.
The committee concluded by reminding the general assembly that it was precisely their job to protect nature in the face of such threats.
Meanwhile, even if the committee voted against granting them permission on Tuesday, Karmin vowed to employ additional legal measures to get the permits.