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Shale: A key to Israel’s energy future

Click photo to download. Caption: The Haifa oil refinery. Credit: Avishai<br />
Teicher/PikiWiki Israel.

By Neil Goldstein/

Click photo to download. Caption: The Haifa oil refinery. Credit: Avishai Teicher/PikiWiki Israel.

Israel soon will be producing natural gas from fields in the
Mediterranean in sufficient quantity to replace all of the coal and gas the
country needs for its electrical power production and for fueling industry—with
an additional 30 percent left for export. But while natural gas may be
sufficient to fulfill domestic needs for the next 40 years, the government of
Israel has sensibly decided that solar power—both photovoltaic (“PV”) plants and
concentrating solar power (“CSP”)—should be part of the nation’s energy mix, providing
an additional pollution-free source of electrical power whenever the sun is

Given these enormous offshore natural gas resources and the
solar energy projects that are being pursued, why, then, does it remain
important for Israel to develop its shale resources?

To understand that need, it first is crucial to clarify
that, while the undersea sandstone formations in which Israel’s gas is
entrapped are overlain with shale, these offshore sites are not what are meant
when people talk about Israel’s “shale” deposits—particularly since Israel’s
offshore gas is being recovered by “conventional” means rather than using more
complex technologies usually needed for producing fossil fuels from shale. Instead,
when people speak of Israel’s shale they are referring to two onshore sites,
one in the center of Israel near Beit Shemesh (the “Shfela Basin”) and the
other in the Golan.

Moreover, rather than containing predominantly natural gas
(like Israel’s offshore fields or like the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania and
New York State)—both these onshore sites are likely to deliver a quite
different and distinct mix of fossil fuels that will be of particular
importance for fueling transportation, rather than for generating electricity. Specifically,
the Golan site is thought to contain predominantly oil. Meanwhile, the site in
the center of the country (in the Shfela Basin) contains fossil fuels in a
different form altogether: hydrocarbons bound to the shale rock.

Although some opponents of development there have raised a
cry against “fracking” at this site, the reality is that is “fracking” is not
being contemplated, nor would it be useful in freeing these hydrocarbons. Instead,
the developers of the Shfela Basin site have devised an entirely new suite of
far more benign technologies that would heat the rock (“oil shale”) gradually
over a period of years to free the hydrocarbons. They have estimated that there
is as much as 250 billion barrels of oil in place in the Shfela, much of which
could be recovered economically using these methods… nearly as much oil as in
all of Saudi Arabia!

The obvious question people have raised is why, with an
enormous abundance of natural gas and solar power, Israel should even bother to
develop these “shale oil” and “oil shale” resources—however much oil they may
contain. For those who understand the geopolitical importance of oil, the
answer is obvious: oil is a strategic commodity without which the industrialized
world could not operate. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Iran have
enormous political power because of the oil they can provide to Europe or …read more

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Posted by on August 26, 2013. Filed under Business News,Israeli News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.