YES, ISRAEL HAS OIL. BUT JUST HOW MUCH...?
The Holy Land’s first oil exploration dates back before the establishment of the state. The Britishowned Iraq Petroleum Company conducted geological surveys and drilled a couple of shallow wells in the ’40s, but found nothing. Since then, government and private companies have tried their luck for decade after decade, but so far with limited success. Major international oil companies have steered clear for fear of jeopardising their interests in the Gulf states, leaving the field open for the minnows. The Arab boycott has not, however, deterred Egypt from supplying equipment and materials. “We can get what we need from Cairo, where almost every big service company has an office, within three days,” Zion Oil says. “There are no reservations on the Egyptian side.” Israel’s first commercial discovery came near Ashkelon in 1955. The Heletz field yielded 20 million barrels of oil. It is still producing, but on a small scale. Elsewhere in the south, gas was found in 1961 at the Zohar field near Arad. It delivered about 2 billion cubic metres. Oil was found again in the early 1970s near Ashdod, but ran dry after producing a modest two million barrels over five years. Another well in the same area yielded a minimal amount of gas. In the ’80s and early ’90s, small finds were exploited in the Judean desert and near Ein Gedi. Further north, Givot Olam, a private company, explored a more promising field near Kfar Saba in 1994. Experts say that the oil is of high quality, but that the quantity was not enough to justify pumping. Yet with world prices now touching $100 a barrel, that may yet change. Israel has been more successful off-shore. Two fields 15 miles west of Ashdod, with proven reserves of 1.5 trillion cubic feet, are currently supplying gas to Ashdod and Tel-Aviv.