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.
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
More Oil News: