Jackpot! Israel on Cusp of Energy Revolution

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Unrest in the Middle East is threatening Israel's energy supply.

But recent natural gas discoveries and extracting oil from shale could make the country energy independent just in the nick of time.
 
Energy Breakthrough?

Some are calling it a potential energy revolution.

Off the coast of Israel in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, explorers have found what is being called the largest offshore gas reserve in the world and the biggest find in a decade.

The discovery is a major development because Israel has long been the one Middle East country without its own oil and gas resources.

"The joke was 'Why did it take Moses 40 years to bring the people of Israel from Egypt to Israel? Because he looked for the only place in the Middle East that lacked oil and gas,'" said Gideon Tadmor, CEO of Delek Energy.

"So that was the joke. But we proved the joke to be wrong, and actually we know that Moses brought us to the right place," he added.

Delek Energy and its American partner, Noble, are behind the discoveries that will start producing natural gas for customers in 2015. 

Energy expert and former CIA director James Woolsey says the gas fields make Israel energy independent.

"They're extraordinarily important and strategically very advantageous I think for Israel," Woolsey told CBN News.

Shale Oil

In addition to natural gas, it appears the Jewish state is also rich in oil shale-- a fine-grained rock which can be used to produce oil through a special process.

Harold Vinegar, chief scientist with Israel Energy Initiatives, says the amount of oil shale buried here might equal the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.

"We think it's conservatively estimated at about 250 billion barrels of oil contained in the Israeli oil shale - probably the second or third largest deposit in the whole world," Vinegar said. "And it has a tremendous potential to make an oil industry here."

Experts say there's enough oil shale to produce at least 50,000 barrels of oil a day - enough to meet Israel's military and civil aviation needs for 25 years.

Israel Energy Initiatives is now performing quality tests.

Vinegar, who was also a chief scientist for Shell, says the samples indicate the oil quality to be very high before it's even refined.

As the world population increases, so will the demand for crude, and that will push up the price.

In response, countries like Israel that import most of their energy will have to develop unconventional resources like oil shale.

"There's nothing scarier than running out of energy," Vinegar said. "I mean, wars have been fought entirely for oil. And so this is something we feel we're doing for Israel, which is to develop the oil shale here."

If his group's plans work out, the land of Israel will hold even more promise for the future.

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Mideast Correspondent

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