Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Oil Shale Country Notes
Sizeable deposits of oil shale have been discovered in various parts of Israel, with the principal resources located in the north of the Negev desert. Estimates of the theoretical reserves total some 300 billion tonnes, of which those considered to be open-pit mineable are put at only a few billion tonnes. The largest deposit (Rotem Yamin) has shale beds with a thickness of 35-80 m, yielding 60-71 l of oil per tonne. Generally speaking, Israeli oil shales are relatively low in heating value and oil yield, and high in moisture, carbonate, and sulphur content, compared with other major deposits. Following tests in a 0.1 MW pilot plant (1982-1986), a 1 MW demonstration fluidised-bed pilot plant was established in 1989. In operation since 1990, the generated energy is sold to the Israeli Electric Corporation, the low-pressure steam to an industrial complex and a considerable quantity of the resulting ash used to make products such as cat litter which is exported to Europe.
Although during the early 1990s proposals for shale oil extraction were put forward, the crude oil price was not high enough to justify financial viability. With the current higher global crude oil price, the project has been seen to be economically possible.
During 2006, A.F.S.K. Hom-Tov, an Israeli company presented a scheme to the Ministry of National Infrastructures for the manufacture of synthetic oil from oil shale. The method would entail combining bitumen (from the Ashdod refinery, 80 km north of the proposed plant at Mishor Rotem in the Negev Desert) with the shale prior to processing in a catalytic converter. It has been suggested that the resultant oil, totalling up to 3 million tonnes/yr, could be piped back to Ashdod for refining. Additionally, the remaining shale rock, containing some residual fuel, could be utilised in a new power plant in the south of the country.
Oil shale is already being mined by companies accessing the phosphate reserves underlying the rock.
Whilst the Government is encouraging development of the oil shale resource, particularly in-situ underground techniques, it is mindful of the environmental concerns.