Shale Oil Could Make Israel an Energy Player

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BEIT SHEMESH, Israel - Israel is one of the few Middle East nations without a bountiful supply of energy. But recent discoveries might change that status in a big way.

Like many countries in the West, Israel imports most of its fuel and is dependent on foreign sources.

One site is located in a valley which is close to the spot where David slew Goliath, as mentioned in the Old Testament. It also may become the site of Israel's future energy supply. About 400 feet below the surface sits a huge deposit of shale oil.

More than Saudi Arabia

Experts say it could eventually produce more oil than Saudi Arabia.

"I would say that we have found a spectacular resource," Yuval Bartov, chief geologist for Israel Energy Initiatives, told CBN News.

The company is licensed by the Israeli government to explore for shale oil.

"Just within the license area, which is a small part of the basin, we're talking about 40 billion barrels," Bartov explained. "In the whole part of that extended area, we're talking about a hundred billion barrels.

"We know very accurately the numbers. But with respect to the entire country, we did a little bit rougher estimate but probably underestimating it now. But we're talking about 250 billion barrels just of what we have knowledge of in Israel," he continued.

"So when you're hearing big numbers of this kind and even higher, they're real. They're real because they're there. It's in the ground," Bartov added.

Those estimates, if true, rival Saudi Arabia's reserves of 264 billion barrels.

Environmentally Safe Extraction

At an exploratory well, IEI Chief Engineer Howard Vinegar told CBN News about their unique and environmentally safe way to extract the oil.

"What we basically do is drill wells using oil field technology, and the holes we drill in the ground are basically just six inches in diameter. By drilling horizontal wells rather than vertical wells, we're able to minimize the surface footprint," he said.

"And we actually only drill over a small strip of land compared to the amount of oil that's being produced," Vinegar explained.

Vinegar's process differs from fracking, the sometimes controversial method of pumping massive amounts of water mixed with sand and other fluids to break up rock and free trapped gas and oil.

He uses a technique begun by Sweden in the 1940s to heat the shale rock for months and then extract it.

Israel an Oil Exporter? 

IEI believes the discovery of the deposit and the technology to extract it could one day make Israel an oil exporter.

"If America can get all the oil they need from Israel, if they eventually can get all the energy for themselves, it will change the whole world," said Howard Jonas, the chief executive officer of IDT Corporation.

The change could free Israel and much of the West from dependence on other countries.

"To release the free world from the dependence from Arab, I would say Islamic oil. I think that this company, this vision, will change the whole balance of forces in the region," said Effie Eitam, president of Genie Oil Company.

"It's an amazing discovery because it means technology-wise a Western country is able to develop means to extract oil from unknown before resources and free itself from the strangle of unfriendly countries," Relik Shafir, IEI's president, said.

The shale discovery comes at the same time Israel has found a major natural deposit off its coast.

Perfect Timing

"It just seems to mesh together in a revolutionary way. The long and the short of it is, I think Israel is on the verge of a revolution in its energy sources and within a decade Israel is going to be energy independent and a major exporter," he predicted. "And it couldn't happen at a better time for us."

"You know, when you have Iran that wants to nuke you, when you're at the mercy of Saudi Arabia and all these other countries -- now is when the danger is the greatest and now is when I think God has put the solution in our hands," he said.

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