Exploratory Drilling for Oil in Judean Desert Passes Final Hurdle
November 24, 2008 by sspillman
Back in August we reported on oil exploration efforts in the Judean Reserve of southern Israel. It looks like the Ginko/Delek/Avner partnership has past a final hurdle with the state of Israel. Environmental concerns on Reserve land have been the primary issue in delaying exploration approval.
Below is the November 6 Jerusalem Post article. The original article can be viewed at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull&cid=1225910056665.
Exploratory drilling for oil in Judean Desert passes final hurdle
The Council of National Parks and Nature Reserves on Thursday approved exploratory drilling for oil in the Judean Desert Nature Reserve, where three companies – Ginko Oil Exploration, Delek Energy Systems, and Avner – believe there could be as much as 6.5 million barrels’ worth.
Drilling for oil in the Judean Desert was approved yesterday by the Council of National Parks and Nature Reserves.
The companies believe that Zuk Tamrur 4, just north of Route 31 from Arad to the Dead Sea, is the best chance Israel has to find oil. That many barrels of oil, while not enough to power the country for more than a month, would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski
The council’s okay followed approval by the Nature and Parks Authority’s (NPA) Assembly, its highest governing body. The 23-member council advises the Environmental Protection Ministry and the NPA on matters of policy. It includes government, environmental, academic and public representatives.
Ginko director Rami Karmin told The Jerusalem Post Thursday that the drilling, the equipment and environmental requirements would cost between $5 million and $7m.
Hebrew University Institute of Earth Sciences Raymond F. Kravis Professor of Geology (Emeritus) Zvi Garfunkel told the Post Thursday that the fact that oil had been found previously could mean there was more.
“In previous drillings, they found a little bit of oil. Indeed, this is Zuk Tamrur 4. There might be a larger reservoir [around there]. But drilling companies usually keep the results of their surveys private,” he said. “There is no smoke without fire, but how big the smoke is and how big the fire is – only the companies know.”
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) vehemently opposed the decision because of its potential impact on the reserve’s fragile ecosystem.
“The state’s institutions are obligated to protect the open spaces, the nature reserves, and most certainly such a special reserve like the Judean Desert, where biodiversity and an ecological system exist almost in their entirety. Therefore we are distressed that this was the decision reached,” Shai Tachnai, SPNI’s southern district coordinator for the preservation of nature, said in a statement.
SPNI quoted the representative of the National Infrastructures Ministry saying at the meeting Thursday morning that there was a 15-percent chance of finding oil below the reserve.
“In the last decade, we have brought about a revolution and turned the Negev and the Judean Desert from a land of quarries to a land of machteshim (erosion craters) and natural attractions. A 15% chance of finding oil does not justify the irreversible damage expected to occur,” Tachnai said.
Regarding that number, Karmin said the companies had never published such an assessment, but “we are optimistic.”
While SPNI protested, the NPA and Environmental Protection Ministry’s representatives voted in favor of the drilling Thursday. During the negotiations for approval from the NPA’s assembly, it was agreed that if oil were found, the pumping would take place from outside the reserve and the companies would rehabilitate any damage caused.
To test for oil, the companies would drill a 2,000-meter hole over 1.25 acres.
Delek Energy Systems and Avner are both controlled by Yitzhak Tshuva.