Israeli Citizen Group "Save Adullam" To Fight Oil Shale Plans

adullam-park-oil-shale Israel’s Energy Initiatives’ (IEI) oil shale ambitions threaten the environment, and livelihood of Judean hills residents. [image courtesy of Moshe Moreno]

By now, with the world’s worst oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico causing irreparable damage, and with numerous cleaner alternatives to choose from, a wiser civilization might leave destructive, polluting energy in the ground, or below the sea, and harness the sun and the wind instead. But the American IDT Corporation is pushing a potentially ruinous oil shale scheme in Israel with a license that permits them to bypass environmental assessments or community engagement.

Close to where David took refuge from Saul, Moshe Moreno from Moshav Aderet went for a walk in December, 2009, and discovered several tools and drilling apparatus in an area that is usually quiet. Mr. Moreno began asking the workers questions.  He says, “one told me they were building a road for the Israel National Roads Company, one said they were checking for sources of natural gas, and the third said they were searching for archaeological artifacts.”

IEI Could Receive 30-yr Commercial Rights to Judean Hills’ Oil Shale

That was not 100% forthcoming, according to Rachel Jacobson, Save Adullam’s PR representative. The group of approximately 30 members formed soon after discovering that IEI has received a license from the Ministry of Infrastructure to test technology designed to extract crude oil from oil shale reserves. According to the Israel Petroleum Law (1952), “upon discovery of petroleum, the licencee has a statutory right to receive…a production lease.” The original lease will give IEI 30 years to develop commercial oil shale operations, and can be extended to a maximum of 50 years.

IDT Corporation’s energy and oil shale division, Genie Energy, consists of IDT Energy, American Shale Oil, LLC (AMSO), and  IEI. Genie’s chairman and AMSO founder is Wes Perry, the mayor of Midland, Texas, and a 30 year veteran of the oil and gas industry. Roughly 89% of IEI belongs to Genie.

Oil Shale Underlies 15% of Israel’s Land

Perry told Business Wire last year that “both America and Israel have significant shale oil reserves. It’s difficult to overstate their potential to improve our respective economies and national security.”

The Ministry of Infrastructure estimates that “15% of the country is underlain by Oil Shale beds,” which may amount to a hundred billion tons. However, they also note that the quality of the oil shale reserves is rated at poor to medium, and much of it is inaccessible.

adullam-park-israel

Energy Giant Tests Previously Unused Technology on Land of 1,000 Caves [image courtesy of Naftali Smulowitz]

According to Save Adullam, the in-situ technology being tested is not being used anywhere else in the world on a commercial scale. In order to extract crude oil, the underground rock is heated to 350 degrees Celsius, which releases gases that are in part converted to sulfur-rich fuel. To achieve this, IEI will dig 5km long heating and collection boreholes, of which 300 will be necessary each year to produce 300,000 barrels of oil per day.

Up to 3 barrels of water per barrel of oil are required to exploit this energy resource, as well as 3-5 Gigawatts of electricity, equivalent to “approximately half of Israel’s current electricity production,” Jacobson reports. Heating the shale, not to mention further production, could release at least 15 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Commercial Oil Shale Production Threatens Livelihood of Agricultural Communities

Save Adullam is eager to protect against the threat to “national heritage sights and vistas, such as the Land of  Bar-Kochba’s caves.” Also at risk are vineyards, goat cheese farms, other agricultural facilities, and the tourist industry. Much of the wine produced in this near untouched region is internationally recognized for its quality.

Furthermore, they express concern that a large, mostly American-owned corporation stands to profit from developing “an industrial pilot program before holding an open and educated public debate regarding the environmental and social costs of the oil shale industry.” Jacobson says, “they want to take over this beautiful land. And it’s scary.”

For more information please visit http://www.saveadullam.org

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8 thoughts on “Israeli Citizen Group "Save Adullam" To Fight Oil Shale Plans

  1. Tafline Laylin

    Thank you so much for your comments.

    It seems to me that the law is exactly what needs to be addressed: although it was updated in 1965, at a time when petroleum security was of imperative concern, today’s climate concerns eclipse the need for a poorly tested, and hugely destructive energy source.

    This is especially true given Israel’s solar and wind resource, which technology has matured since the law was first instituted.

    Reply
  2. Aviva Weisgal

    This story is truly te tip of the iceburg, and should have follow-up articles written about it.

    When David meets Goliath version 2010…and the beat goes on!

    I hope that common sense will prevail, and that a small group of conserned citizens will truly make the difference.

    Reply
  3. Naftali

    One cannot over emphasize the severity of the various direct and indirect impacts of the oil shale extraction and refining processes.

    It is widely known and proven that oil shale development contributes to harmful gas emissions, water quality impairment and high water consumption.
    Many of the impacts of ex situ oil drills and expected impacts from in situ development are even documented in an environmental review prepared by the US government agency responsible for overseeing development on public lands (http://ostseis.anl.gov/ )
    In today’s climate, one cannot and should not hide such information from the Israeli public.

    The fact is that greenhouse gas emissions from shale oil extraction in the controversial experimental heating system are tremendous and of course much higher than those emitted from commonly used drilling methods.

    These are major concerns.

    Also, it should be noted that, unlike Colorado, the Adullam Valley is situated in the very center of Israel, near villages, moshavim and the developing city of Bet Shemesh. The area is also dedicated to farming, famous for its vineyards and wineries, and because of its beauty and history, a tourist Mecca for visitors from both Israel and throughout the world.

    So, my question is: “For what”?
    With all due respect, what is causing the government of Israel to allow a foreign-based entity to endanger the fragile Israeli water system, our ecology, tourism and public health?
    Why should we be guinea pigs in an unproven, uneccesary and unhealthy method of oil drilling that the United States shuns???

    Reply
  4. Naftali

    It is widely known and proven that oil shale development contributes to harmful gas emissions, water quality impairment and high water consumption.

    Many of the impacts of ex situ oil drills and expected impacts from in situ development are even documented in an environmental review prepared by the US government agency responsible for overseeing development on public lands (http://ostseis.anl.gov/ )

    In today’s climate, one cannot and should not hide such information from the Israeli public.

    The fact is that greenhouse gas emissions from shale oil extraction in the controversial experimental heating system are tremendous and of course much higher than those emitted from commonly used drilling methods.

    These are major concerns.

    Also, it should be noted that, unlike Colorado, the Adullam Valley is situated in the very center of Israel, near villages, moshavim and the developing city of Bet Shemesh. The area is also dedicated to farming, famous for its vineyards and wineries, and because of its beauty and history, a tourist Mecca for visitors from both Israel and throughout the world.

    So, my question is: “For what”? With all due respect, what is causing the government of Israel to allow a foreign-based entity to endanger the fragile Israeli water system, our ecology, tourism and public health? Why should we be guinea pigs in an unproven, uneccesary and unhealthy method of oil drilling that the United States shuns???

    Naftali Smulowitz

    Reply

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