Does Israel really have oil? That seems to be the question everyone’s asking. Maybe it’s the wrong question. Turn’s out, Exxon and Shell have known about Israel’s oil for nearly ten years. Here’s a clipping from The Jerusalem Post, March 5, 1999. I’ll copy the text here since the clipping is a little hard to read (click on the clipping for a cleaner version).
As a geologist and managing director of various oil exploration companies in Israel over the past 20 years, I was quoted in several paragraphs of Michael Arnold’s article “Slippery dreams” (January 22). I would like to amend and add certain facts as follows:
The oil potential of Israel was evaluated twice at the request of the Israeli government. In 1962, Lewis Weeks, the former chief geologist at Exxon, determined that “the potential ultimate oil resources of Israel should be of the order of 500 to 2,000 million barrels from primary recovery… The figures do not include gas… which may equal 50% and upwards of that of the oil.”
In 1979, James Wilson, former chief geologist or Shell (US) determined that on-shore Israel (the off-shore and the Dead Sea Rift Valley were not included) has a potential of330 to 2,000 million barrels of recoverable oil.
Both these experts have been president of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.
Since the Wilson evaluation in 1979, extensive data have been accumulated relating to on-shore and off-shore Israel. From this data, it becomes clear that the total may exceed 2,000 million barrels.
Israel’s per annum consumption amounts to about 70 million barrels.
The 1962 evaluation predicted that “the finding and recovery of this oil and gas may require many decades” -and evidently assumed that such efforts would be made. Unfortunately, this has not been the case.
It is most likely that this failing is one of the main reasons why the forecast potential has not yet been discovered.
2,000 million barrels? That’s 2 billion barrels. That’s Exxon and Shell saying it. So the question isn’t “does Israel have any oil?” The question is, “If the big boys have known about this for so long, why haven’t they done anything about it?” The answer, unfortunately, is pretty easy. They’ve got larger, established assets in the Arab world and the Arab world has told them, “If you do business with Israel, don’t bother doing business here.” That’s what the 1973 oil embargo was all about.
What’s Israel’s answer? Keep supporting those who are exploring for the oil they know is there. What can we do about it? Stop wondering if Israel really has any oil. It does. If you want to see it come to the surface, support the exploration already in country. This piece of history will come about, and it won’t be long until it does. Those involved in that effort are destined to be written in to the story of Israel’s future.