New Reservoir Found in Golan Heights?
Newark-based Genie Oil and Gas reports that its Israeli subsidiary, Afek Oil, has confirmed the presence of hydrocarbons in its oil exploration licence area in the disputed Golan Heights region. The confirmation was announced in September after drilling two wells north of Nahal El Al, close to the former kibbutz of Moshav Natur.
The company has not provided more detailed explanations. Israeli press reports claiming that the company had discovered an “oil reservoir” and commercial quantities of hydrocarbons are not correct.
Licence Awarded in 2013
Genie Oil and Gas is a subsidiary of Genie Energy, a New York Stock Exchange-listed company with shareholders that include media magnate Rupert Murdoch and British banker Jacob Rothschild and with former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney as an adviser. It was awarded the 395-square-kilometre concession by the Israeli government in February 2013. Its Afek subsidiary planned a 10-well drilling programme over three years. The licence has a four-year extension option.
Geological and geophysical studies by Afek prior to drilling suggested that the area could hold hydrocarbons in a Late Cretaceous chalk reservoir at depths between 800 and 1500 metres. The chalk is believed to act as both source and reservoir and to have an organic carbon content averaging 10 per cent.
The Golan Heights remains an internationally disputed region. It was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War and officially annexed in 1981.The area has not been affected by the ongoing civil war in Syria. Under international law, the region is recognised as Syrian.
Opposition to oil exploration in this area, however, came from environmental rather than political quarters. The Israeli Union for Environmental Defence and residents in the Golan Heights petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice that the drilling programme should be cancelled.
The petitioners claimed that any hydrocarbons in the region would be in the form of oil shale, called unconventional oil accumulations, and would have to be exploited through the use of a hydraulic fracturing method, known as “fracking”, that could cause irreparable environmental damage. Afek replied that both conventional and unconventional oil accumulations could be found at the site.
The petitions also claimed that drilling could cause damage to underground water reservoirs.
The Israeli High Court ordered a postponement of drilling in September 2014 and extended it later to the end of October. However, it rejected further petitions and removed the orders on 23 December 2014.
In response, the company has said that it would make efforts to reduce drilling noise at night and that no drilling would be undertaken during Shabbats.
There have been isolated incidents of sabotage at the drilling site prior to well spudding, but these have been investigated by the local police. Opposition to the drilling had fallen over 2015.
Afek has claimed that drilling to date has not caused any environmental damage.
Afek has employed 25 Golan Heights residents for its work programmes. This number could rise, depending on future drilling success. A commercial oil find, if developed, could boost the local economy, but this prospect remains distant for the moment.