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Oil from Israel

Posted by Richard on November 22, 2006

Israel isn’t sitting on top of large pools of oil, like most of its Arab neighbors, but they do have about 15 billion tons of oil shale. A couple of weeks ago (yeah, I got the news a bit late), an Israeli company announced it was going ahead with plans for a shale oil processing plant in the Negev. The plant will be the first commercial application of the company’s unique, patented process for creating a light synthetic crude oil from the shale:

A.F.S.K. Hom Tov presented its oil shale processing method on Tuesday, outside Haifa and just down the street from one of the country’s two oil refinery facilities.

"Because the patents for this process belong to (the company), Israel is the most advanced in the world in the effort to create energy from oil shale," Moshe Shahal, a Hom Tov legal representative and a former Israeli energy minister, told United Press International.

Shahal estimated that the company’s Negev Desert facility would begin full-scale production in three to four years, while other countries with oil shale deposits will need five to six years to reach production.

The company said its process is much more environmentally friendly than previous shale extraction processes and costs only $17 per barrel. By comparison, I believe the typical high-temperature, high-pressure shale extraction methods (called retorting) cost about $50 per barrel and have significant environmental problems.

A process that’s that cheap and that doesn’t have the toxic waste or water usage problems of retorting is nothing short of revolutionary. If Hom Tov isn’t just blowing smoke, then people from Colorado, Australia, and Eastern Europe are probably already lined up at their door — not to mention neighboring Jordan, which is in the same boat, oil-resource-wise, as Israel:

Israel has 15 billion tons of oil shale reserves. Jordan, on the other hand, has about 25 billion tons, and the oil shale in Jordan is of higher quality. Shahal met with Jordanian Energy Minister Azmi Khreisat earlier this year, to discuss setting up a plant there.

Sounds like the prospect of a new energy source and large profits can motivate at least some Arabs to cooperate with Israelis.

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