Jerusalem District Committee rejects Shefla basin oil shale pilot project

Terminating a several-year saga that has pitted claims of energy independence against environmental risk, the Jerusalem District Committee for Planning and Building voted to reject the Shfela basin oil shale pilot drilling project on Tuesday evening.

IEI’s exploratory oil shale drilling site at Zoharim. (credit: SHARON UDASIN)

The project under debate was that of Jerusalem-based Israel Energy Initiatives, which has for years been aiming to prove the viability of approximately 40 billion barrels of oil found in the shale rock layer of the Shfela basin in south-central Israel. Although the company completed the exploratory phase of its project in 2011 – required due to the newness of the technology being tested – environmental opposition and regulatory changes delayed moving on to a pilot stage.

Tuesday’s 10-hour committee meeting was a direct continuation of a previous discussion on August 4, during which a decision on the project was postponed after nearly nine hours of deliberations.

In Tuesday’s meeting, 10 committee members voted against the plan, one voted in favor and two abstained.

“This is an important day for the environment and for the citizens of Israel, who won one of the most beautiful and toured parts of Israel,” said Environmental Minister Amir Peretz, who has been vocal against the project. “This is also an important day particularly for our children, who can be sure that the natural resources of Israel will be preserved and serve them in the future in the event that it is required.”

Israel Energy Initiatives, which is a subsidiary of the New Jersey firm Genie Energy, has estimated that approximately 40 billion barrels of oil lie between 200 m. and 400 m. below Ella Valley’s surface, enmeshed among 70-millionyear- old fossils.

The pilot phase would have involved just one drilling site and production facility within IEI’s license zone, through which the company would extract 500 barrels of oil – about two barrels per day.

Only after the successful completion of the pilot project would a demonstration phase, followed by a full commercial phase, have been able to move forward.  Continue reading at…

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