Israel discovers massive oil reserves in Golan Heights

Massive oil reserves have been confirmed in the Golan Heights, though it remains to be seen whether Israel will be able to extract the oil profitably and with minimal environmental damage.

By: Lauren Calin, World Israel News

Environmental activists protest oil exploration in the Golan. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Environmental activists protest oil exploration in the Golan. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israel may be on the brink of self-sufficiency in oil after the discovery of large reserves in the Golan Heights. Extracting the oil, however, has come under opposition by local residents and environmental activists, who are concerned about the potential damage to the unique nature of the Golan.

“We are talking about a strata which is 350 meters thick and what is important is the thickness and the porosity,” Afek Oil and Gas’s chief geologist, Dr. Yuval Bartov, told Channel 2. “On average in the world strata are 20-30 meters thick, so this is ten times as large as that, so we are talking about significant quantities. The important thing is to know the oil is in the rock and that’s what we now know.”

Afek requested permission from the Israeli government on Monday to continue its exploration program. With oil prices below $50 a barrel, the company would need to be able to extract the oil relatively cheaply in order to make a profit. “Initial findings from the drilling confirm the discovery of an oil reservoir in the Golan and further justifies continuing the exploration program,” the request stated.

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Based on the initial findings, the southern part of the Golan contains billions of barrels of oil. Israel consumes 270,000 barrels of oil daily, so the reserves would be sufficient to fulfill the country’s needs for many years.

Not everyone is in favor of oil exploration in the Golan, however. Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority, and NGOs such as the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, are concerned about what effect drilling could have on water sources in the Golan.

Drilling is also likely to be controversial from a geopolitical perspective. The international community does not recognize Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan.