How much more exploitation can the Dead Sea take? Next up: drilling for oil.
It’s hard to say what’s worse from an environmental standpoint; Jordan and Israel’s continued mining of potash and other minerals at the Dead Sea, or drilling for oil.
The potash industry has been going on for years there, including a unique method of extracting the mineral from Dead Sea water, interest in drilling for both oil and natural gas has also been happening, with some measure of success.
Following the discovery of natural gas back in the 1960s in Israel, a sufficient quantity of oil was brought up from a well drilled by the Naphtha Israel Petroleum Company during some 20 years later.
The Dead Sea, or Salt Sea (Yam Hamelach) as it is known in Israel, is the lowest dryland point in the world, and has been steadily receding since most of the flow of the Jordan River (the lake’s main water source) was diverted into Israel’s national water carrier.
As a result, only a trickle of Jordan River water reaches the Dead Sea – filled with West Bank sludge – and environmentalists fear the lake will be gone entirely by the year 2050.Drilling for oil and gas in the areas near the Dead Sea have so far only had limited success, with the biggest being Naptha’s Tzuk Tamrur 3 well, which was drilled in the early 1990s and brought in around 120,000 barrels of oil. As noted in an article in Globes, Israel’s financial newspaper, the well only became unprofitable due to the then lower price of oil, which at the time was between $18 and 20 a barrel.
With oil running four times as much per barrel nowadays (but also consider inflation), Naptha decided to drill a new well, Tzuk Tamrur 4 , about 3 kilometers north of the Tamrur 3 well. The well is planned to reach a depth of 2,000 meters, and will take two months to complete, at a cost of $4.5 million.
The environmental problems dealing with drilling for oil, as well as from oil itself, have been covered in previous Green Prophet articles. So has the unique eco-structure of the Dead Sea itself, where the receding water has resulted in the creation of numerous “sink holes” ranging in size of up to 30 meters across.
Oil wells require environmentally damaging things such as sludge pools for salt water and oil residues to drain into, as well as space for drill pipe and well pipe casing to be stored. And when an oil pool is found, a considerable amount of crude oil comes out onto the ground until the well is finally “capped”. There is also a danger of a well catching on fire, which can be environmentally damaging, especially for an area as ecologically fragile as the Dead Sea.
It seems that more than enough money has already been made from the Potash and other minerals extracted from the Dead Sea, and from all the cosmetics that have been produced from dead sea mud and minerals. And with oil being considered as a major cause of global warming, it might be better to just leave this kind of project well enough alone.
The Dead Sea should be preserved and protected as a Wonder of the World, so generations in the next thousand years and beyond can reap its healing benefits, known to help skin disorders such as psoriasis, asthma, and Crohn’s disease.